Writing Tips: The Controversial Aspects Of Story Design 4

So we’ve come to the last part of the series. I’m not crying- just have eye allergies. At least we have these sage words of writing tips to console ourselves with. Do not just read, but make sure you apply what you have learned in your writing.

BY CHARLES OPARA

If you missed Part 3 please click here.

Step 6. Get a Sense of the Central Conflict

Once you have an idea of who will drive the story, you want to figure out what your story is about at the most essential level. That means determining the central conflict of the story. Ask yourself “Who fights whom over what?” and answer the question in one succinct line. The answer to that is what your story is really about, because all conflict in the story will essentially boil down to this one issue.

Step 7: Get a Sense of the Single Cause-and-Effect Pathway

Every good, organic story has a single cause-and-effect pathway: A leads to B, which leads to C, and so on all the way to Z. This is the spine of the story. And if you don’t have a spine or you have too many spines, your story will fall apart.

Step 8. Determine Your Hero’s Possible Character Change

After the designing principle, the most important thing to glean from your premise line is the fundamental character change of your hero. This is what gives the audience the deepest satisfaction no matter what form the story takes, even when the character change is negative (e.g. The Godfather).

Character change is what your hero experiences by going through his struggle.

It can be represented as an equation.

Weakness x Action = Changed
W x A = C

Character with weaknesses x Basic Action = Changed Character

W = Weaknesses; it can be both psychological and moral

A = Struggle to accomplish the basic action in the middle of the story

C = Changes

In most stories, a character with weaknesses struggles to achieve something and ends up changed as a result.

The simple logic of a story works like this;

How does the act of struggling to do the basic action (A) lead the character to change from W to C?

Notice that basic action (A) is the fulcrum that balances W and C.

Key Point: The basic action should be the one action best able to force the character to deal with his weaknesses and change.

(This is the simple geometry of any story because it is the sequence of human growth)

The key to doing this is to start with the basic and then go to the opposites of that action. This will tell the audience who your hero is at the beginning and who he is at the end of the story (how he has changed).

Step 9: Figure Out the Hero’s Possible Moral Choice

The central theme of a story is often crystallized by a moral choice the hero must make, typically near the end of the story. Theme is your moral vision, and it is one of the main reasons you are writing your story.

Theme is best expressed through the structure of the story, through the moral argument.

Key Point: To be a true choice, your hero must either select one of two positive outcomes or, on rare occasions, avoid one of two negative outcomes.

Make options as equal as possible, with one seeming slightly better than the other.

An example of a choice between two positives is between love and honour. In A Farewell to Arms, the hero chooses love. In The Maltese Falcon, the hero chooses honour.

This technique is about finding possible moral choices. The choice you come up with now may change completely by the time you have written the full story.

This technique simply forces you to start thinking, in practical terms, about your theme from the very beginning of the writing process.

Step 10: Gauge the Audience Appeal

When you’ve done all your premise work, ask yourself one final question: Is this single storyline unique enough to interest a lot of people besides me?

This is the question of popularity, of commercial appeal. You must be ruthless in answering it.

You should always write first for yourself; write what you care about. But you shouldn’t write only for yourself.”

The Ideas Represented In This Article are Purely Charles Opara’s.

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