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Plot - The Teak Tree

Updated: 6 hours ago


Image of a forest of teak trees. The low shot shows only the trunks.

Adventure; psychological | New York, 2019


Main characters

Jake has been the priest of choice in a large community in Queens, New York; his crush on a teenage girl has challenged his vocation. Dave is a guitarist who years earlier was the front man of a band that topped the charts for a summer; he lives in a studio apartment in Chicago.


Marc is an engineer from Los Angeles, a former executive of a multinational company from which he was fired; his crisis led to his separation from his wife. Everyone has lost something: Jack has lost his faith, Marc his job and family, and Dave his love and money. The three do not know each other, yet they are brought together by cynicism and the idea that they are unable to get back on their feet.


The call to adventure

A New York agency launches a national contest on behalf of an airline: a free trip for losers. People enter by sending in autobiographies that must prove to be real. Among thousands of stories submitted, it is those of Jake, Dave, and Marc that emerge as the winners. The three won a trip to central Africa.


Of course, the agency asks them to collaborate on the campaign, but right away the different personalities are a cause for clash, and the preconditions for the trip to become a real vacation quickly vanish.


The conflict

During an internal transfer flight between two villages in the Congo, the private plane on which the three men and the agency staff are embarked crashes in a remote jungle location. The pilot dies and so do the agency's four companions, but Jake, Dave, and Marc, though battered, are saved.


They are alone and with no possibility of contact with civilization. The jungle immediately puts them to the test, but cooperation is difficult. No one wants to take responsibility. Locked in the shell of indifference to others' problems because they are too focused on their own, they will find themselves divided overnight.


The key

But the jungle is unforgiving. The first to get hurt is Dave. His screams prompt fellow travelers to return to rescue him. Catapulted into an unfamiliar world, despite everyone's reservations, they are forced to join forces to survive a powerful and unsettling nature. This means trusting each other, blunting differing characters.


Chance leads the three to a remote animal welfare center. The elderly Dr. Lenor, head of the center, rescues them, starting with Dave and his broken ankle. But there is no way to communicate; the center has a broken radio and is isolated. It will be two weeks before someone comes and can pick them up. During that time they will have to roll up their sleeves and be helpful to the doctor.


The three face an unfamiliar experience, out of their usual environment. They do not have to prove anything and the past no longer matters. They just need to make themselves useful. The animal rescue center is confirmation that life can be lived in a thousand ways. When the food plane arrives two weeks later, the detachment from the center is difficult to the point that Dave decides to stay with the doctor because he has found his balance.


Plot alternatives

The confrontation between characters who are different but united by bad luck is always an interesting subject. The strong element of this plot is the obligation to cooperate in a place unknown to everyone. With these two specifics in mind, you can create dozens of alternatives. Remember: gender, era, places, names.


For example, you could move the events to 1980, England and set the journey in Asia. Or devote the narrative only to the female world. Finally, you can also play another card: include among the three a devious, villainous character who has a vested interest in making another of the group fail. And remember points of view, with three characters you have many alternatives. For example: omniscient, single first person, multiple first person points of view.

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