Tuesday, September 11, 2012

I Got Smacked in the Face...

...by what Story is and isn't, this last week or so. But, before I tell you all about it, a joke:

My new pen name (I'll be writing as a girl): Sue Doehnim. Tee-hee-hee. I'm sure I didn't think of that all on my own, but I didn't steal it (consciously, on purpose), either.

Anyway, back to important writerly stuffs.

I figured out what's been holding my story-telling back lately. (By lately I mean always, although sometimes more so than other times.) I have been doing a great job (if I do so so myself) with characterization, descriptions, interesting ideas, all the spices that go in the stew. But I've been skimping on the meat and potatoes.

To wit: a story has to have conflict. More importantly, a protagonist, which a story has to have, has to have a clear goal that the reader understands. This is where I've been failing, without even realizing it.

Sometimes my stories have conflict, but it's not really relevant to 'the problem the MC must solve to win.' Sometimes there is no clear problem. (In other words, the story just 'happens' to the MC.) Sometimes, because everyone is lucky occasionally, I get it right.

But it wasn't until this last week that I realized how important this fundamental point is, and how often I've been skating straight past it. Story has to have an MC with a clear goal. A storyteller has to know what the MC's goal is, from the start. Or no story.

I've struggled to finish several genre stories lately, not understanding why it was so dang difficult to figure out what happens next. Now I know: I didn't know what the characters wanted to accomplish. So how could I possible know what happens next (when they try to accomplish whatever it is they are trying to accomplish)?

Answer: I can't. Result: unfinished story.

Sounds dumb, and basic as all get out. But I am so fired up about writing again, because I finally understand what my fiction needs. Not plot, not conflict, not great characters and settings. Goals. I have to let the reader in on the characters goals, ASAP.

Yay, me. Now back to writing.

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