For one hundred days, I’m going to post a writing tip each day. I have a whole bookshelf full of writing books and I want to do some reading and increased studying of this valuable resource. This will help me keep track of anything I’ve learned, and help motivate me to keep going. If anyone has a favorite tip of their own to add, contact me. I’d love to put it up here.
Today’s tip – Exploring a Story’s Meaning And Purpose
Structural and effectiveness analyses only begin to uncover a story’s meaning. These further questions will help you decide how a story acts—or might act—on its audience:
- What genre is this story and under what rules does its world usually run?
- What patterns can you see that might be significant to the story’s meaning?
- Who is the point of view (POV) character (meaning, through whose feelings and viewpoint do we mainly experience the events)?
- What forces does the story make this character (or these characters) confront, and why?
- What are the qualities of the main characters and what can we expect of them at the outset?
- Does anyone in the story develop (that is, learn, change, or grow)?
- When you compare the story’s end with its beginning, what major changes have taken place and what do they signify?
- Does the story stay within its genre or does it break out of that genre in any way?
- Taking the story as a whole, How does it want to act on us?
- What does it say about the individual in relation to the way the world works? (This is often expressed as “the individual in relation to the laws of the universe”).
- What is the story’s premise (that is, what is its content and purpose expressed in one or two pithy sentences)?
- What is its theme? (That is, what embracing truth does it seek to establish? Examples: “Crime doesn’t pay” or “Women don’t make passes at boys wearing glasses.”)
There are these and so many other questions that need to be asked and answered in the story crafting process. I think it is very important to not ask these questions until the first draft is finished. Otherwise, at worst you will be intimidated into never writing the damn thing – at best spontaneous creativity will be suppressed.
Remember – writing isn’t writing, editing is writing. Save all this boring crap for the second through tenth drafts.