Answer These Six Questions to Know If You Have a Story |
by Eldred Hen
You’ve simply give you what you imagine is a good new thought to your subsequent brief story, novel, or screenplay. You sit down on the keyboard, stretch your again, crack your knuckles, and flex your fingers. You stare on the display for the subsequent twenty minutes or so ready for inspiration to hit.
When it doesn’t come, you start to query the life decisions that led you down the trail of changing into a author. This leads to doubting your authentic premise and asking your self, “Do I really have a story worth telling or not?”
Whether or not it’s our first story or our thirtieth, we have all been on this place. So, how do you reply the query? An ideal place to begin is with the Six Essential Questions from screenwriter Glenn Gers. Not solely will these six questions enable you consider your story thought however elevate it as effectively.
The Six Questions
1. Who’s it about?
The primary query to ask is who the story is about. I’m not speaking about a title, however a description. Who’re they as a individual and what makes them attention-grabbing sufficient to observe alongside their journey. The place did they arrive from and the place are they heading? What makes them completely different? What are their hopes and fears? The extra you realize, the extra attention-grabbing you may make the character.
You can have one particular person or an ensemble, however keep in mind the extra fundamental characters you may have, the extra difficult issues can get. You’ll want to ask these identical six questions for each character.
Backside line—the deeper the characters, the simpler it is going to be for the readers to kind an emotional attachment. When the readers care concerning the characters, they’ll care extra about what the characters need, and that leads us to the subsequent query.
2. What do they need?
As Kurt Vonnegut famously stated, “Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.” That’s what drives a plot and retains the story transferring ahead. If your character is content material and lacks for nothing, then there’s nothing pushing them out of their consolation zone. With out that motivator there isn’t a story. Want is the carrot on the stick dangling simply out of attain.
What a character desires will be exterior or inside. Are they transferring towards one thing or working away from it? Possibly they’re being pushed to obtain a objective or cease another person from reaching theirs. Ask this of each character in each scene and also you’ll have a extra compelling story.
3. Why can’t they get it?
That is the place we throw roadblocks within the path of our characters. If a character will get what they need too simply, we’re going to have a fairly uneventful narrative. We want to complicate issues for them.
Let’s say your fundamental character (we’ll name her Beth) is hungry. Beth walks into the kitchen, opens the fridge, and takes out half a sandwich left over from lunch. She eats it and goes again to no matter she was doing earlier than the starvation struck. Fairly boring, proper?
Now let’s say Beth opens the fridge and finds it empty. The cabinets are the identical. She checks her pockets and purse however finds solely a couple of pennies. No cash equals no meals. What Beth desires is meals. What stands in her manner is lack of funds to purchase it. Now we now have a motivator to drive our story ahead.
Bodily limitations and different characters usually impede a character getting what they want, however roadblocks don’t have to be exterior. Among the greatest challenges characters usually have to overcome are inside. What are your character’s greatest fears and phobias? Overcoming them is a wonderful means to present progress in a character.
4. What do they do about it?
What are they going to do to overcome the obstacles you’ve positioned of their path? They want to give you a plan, however don’t make it too simple. Put one thing in danger, both bodily or emotionally. The perfect tales get us emotionally concerned, so maintain the stakes excessive.
Make the plan one thing that can take a look at the character’s limits. Push them past what they understand they’re able to however maintain it plausible. If you go too far it’s simple to lose the suspension of disbelief and the curiosity of the reader.
5. Why doesn’t it work?
If the plan our character comes up with works proper out of the field, then we’re going to have a brief and anticlimactic story. We want to complicate issues. The primary attempt ought to fail however educate the character one thing they want to know. Consider every setback as a studying expertise the place they uncover one thing concerning the impediment or, extra importantly, themselves.
Let’s take a look at Beth once more. She wants cash for meals. The plain resolution is to get a job, however there’s one thing stopping her. She’s afraid to face the skin world after shedding her partner in a tragic accident, so she decides to search for a job the place she will make money working from home.
Sadly, each employer she queries requires an in-person interview. After a number of failed makes an attempt to go away the condominium, she lastly works up the braveness and steps outdoors. A victory, proper? Time to complicate issues a little extra. Now she’s afraid to get on the bus.
The brand new stumbling block has despatched her proper again to step three. The character has to reevaluate and give you a new plan, so it’s rinse and repeat till they achieve what they want to attain their remaining objective.
6. How does it finish?
There are numerous methods to finish a story, however principally it comes down to the primary character both getting what they need or not. You resolve whether or not it’s going to be a happily-ever-after second or studying to reside with the frustration of a quest unfulfilled. In both case, the character ought to expertise some form of progress.
My favourite tales are those the place the character will get what they want reasonably than what they need. It actually exhibits progress when somebody can break the sample of what’s anticipated of them and find yourself in a a lot better place as a consequence.
I believe Glenn himself summed it up finest when he stated:
“Every story is about someone trying to get something, and the people and things that get in their way.”
So, each time you sit down to plot, write, or edit, reply these six easy questions. Do it for each story, each chapter, and each scene. Then whenever you ask, “Do I have a story?” you’ll find a way to reply YES.
Choose one thing you’ve written and reply these six questions. Did you cowl all of the bases or discover one thing you missed? How do you consider your tales? Tell us within the feedback.
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Eldred Hen writes up to date fiction, brief tales, and private essays. He has spent a nice deal of time exploring the deserts, forests, and deep canyons inside his residence state of Arizona. His James McCarthy adventures, Killing Karma, Catching Karma, and Cold Karma, replicate this love of the Grand Canyon State whilst his character solves mysteries amidst hazard. Eldred explores the boundaries of brief fiction in his tales, The Waking Room, Treble in Paradise: A Tale of Sax and Violins, and The Smell of Fear.
When he’s not writing, Eldred spends time biking, mountaineering, and juggling (sure, juggling…bowling balls and 21-inch knives).
His ardour for images permits him to document his travels. He will be discovered on Twitter or Facebook, or at his website.
Prime Picture by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay