Wednesday, August 4, 2010

How to Find the Story Within

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by C. Patrick Schulze

Listen to a PODCAST of this article.

In my recent post, HOW TO OUTLINE A NOVEL, a couple of people mentioned they have trouble moving forward with their manuscript. This post is offered in an effort to help them move their story forward.

There are a number of reasons why the words don't come to us. One reason is the phenomena called Writer's Block, which always goes away. However, I think the one that's more common, but less acknowledged, is writers don't know how to build upon an idea they already have. They don't know where to start.
The good news? The story is there. You only have to find it.

If, by chance, you don't have an idea with which to build your story, here's a good article on HOW TO DEVELOP A STORY IDEA.

If you do have an idea, one method to bring out your story is to make yourself familiar with The Hero's Journey. Basically, The Hero's Journey gives you a twelve-step process for storytelling. It helps you develop your plot, or what happens to your characters. The Hero's Journey fits any genre and will result a compelling storyline if you follow it.

The Hero's Journey creates a framework with which to build your story. In effect, it is your outline. You just fill in the blanks. Here's some additional information on THE HERO'S JOURNEY.

Another method to bring out the story from within an idea is to write your story backwards.

Here's the trick. Try not to think of A to B to C. Think C to B to A, with C being your ending.

To do this, begin with your final scene and then write the scene that immediately precedes your ending. Then write the scene before that again and again until you've got your story. A question to ask yourself is "What had to happen to get me to point C or B or A?"

Think of that in this way, if your story idea tells you the hero gets the girl in the end, think backward to what made her want him in the first place. Then, think back before what convinced her to want him, to what he did to make her think that way. Before he did that, what did he do to make himself known to her. Each of these events is now a scene, or possibly a chapter, in your novel.

Of course, you don't have to write out the scenes as you develop them. Brief descriptions of what is going to happen is all that's necessary at this point.

Once you've got your story written backwards, the next thing you do is add conflict to your scenes. Conflict is the character's emotional reactions to the action they experience. (It's not the explosion, it's the character's emotional reaction to the explosion.) Read more about CONFLICT in this article.

Let's consider the "Boy Gets Girl" story I used as an example above to illustrate this idea.

When you figure out how he made himself known to her, insert some action and conflict to spice up that scene. For example, maybe they were passengers in the same bus when it crashed. The crash is the action. He became known to her when he pulled her from the flaming wreckage. Toss in some emotional reaction to his saving of her and you're on your way.

Regardless how you attack this problem, until you have your story, ignore everything else. Don't worry about dialogue, setting or whatever. Don't even flesh out your characters. Focus only on the story. Once you have that, the rest should fall in place.

What suggestions do you have to create a story from an idea?

Until we meet again, know I wish for you only best-sellers.

C. Patrick Schulze
Author of the emerging novel, "Born to be Brothers"

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