What is a Story?



In the course of a story, someone changes.  She goes from one place to another or as Mark Twain put it, “…a tale shall arrive somewhere.”

Dorothy changes.  She learns to accept her home.

Michael Corleone changes.  He commits to a life of violence.

Katniss Everdeen changes.  She becomes a warrior.

Look at any well-told story and you will see a main character—the protagonist—who changes.

If nobody in your writing changes, it is not a story.  It is a documentary, a sketch, or a piece of exposition.  A recent example of a (long) movie that is not a story is Wolf of Wall Street.  The protagonist doesn’t change.

Moment to moment, a non-story can be interesting; but a true story holds your attention for the journey.  Start at the gate, drive through the obstacles, overcome the challenges, and arrive at a catharsis—right along with the hero.

The hero is driven by what I call DDD: deep driving desire.   The DDD is a need so deep, it is essential.  The DDD can be love.  Safety.  Power.  Honor.  Acceptance.  The DDD is a universal human need—deeper than culture, class, or circumstance.

If you want your hero to end at Point Z, where do you start her out?  At Point M, Q, Y?  You start her at Point A.   If she goes from ethical to corrupt, start her as a goody two-shoes.  If he goes from peaceful to violent, start him as a person who could never conceive of doing violence.  Take him somewhere.  Create the journey.   Write change on every page.


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