A Great Story Is More Than a String of Interesting Events

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Like many new writers, I thought I had to create a string of interesting events to make a good story. Some scary, some romantic, some brave, etc. I didn’t see the story as my protagonist’s journey to become someone better.

Goals

Now I know my protagonist’s internal and external goals need to guide the events I include. The events will have conflicts and disasters that push my protagonist forward to attain her goals or direct her to change her goals.

Here’s an example showing how to create events so that designer Abby can do something she couldn’t do in the beginning.

image by sasint

First, look at her goals and what she struggles with.

Internal Goal: Abby wants people to notice her and listen to her.

External Goal: She wants to be promoted to manager of a design team.

 

Next, identify what she’s good at.

Competency: She’s an accomplished designer.

Then, considering the above, brainstorm the initial event that sends Abby on her journey.

Possible Inciting Incidents

Case 1: Abby must use vacation time to go home and take care of her loving mom.

Case 2: A design manager’s accident keeps him home for at least 2 months. The firm will choose the interim manager from Abby and her peers. The chosen designer will show how successful she is as a manager.

Case 3: For the open manager position Abby wanted, the company hires a handsome man from outside the firm.

Case 4: Three top designers must present a design for a particular project. They’ll each have three junior designers to help them. Company vice presidents will judge the design. The winner gets a manager job.

Creating Meaningful Events

Although we could make Case 1 work, it doesn’t naturally mesh with her internal and external goals or her competency. For Case 3, we could, again, brainstorm twists to make Case 3 work with Abby’s goals.

image by jimmikehank

I can see great possibilities for a series of events that flow from Abby’s goals for Cases 2 and 4.

In Case 2, the first set of events could center on Abby getting the interim job because of her competency. She thinks a permanent manager job is hers. But she applies hard-nosed tactics to get her reports to listen to her.

In the next events, conflicts and disasters surge as her reports avoid her, and production and quality decrease. Abby’s internal and external goals are at risk.

Then new events arise when a mentor explains to her what good management is: using her expertise to help her reports be their best, to obtain what they need to do their jobs, and to lead them with firmness, not meanness.

Then the crisis event occurs when the manager returns. Abby is a peer again, and the manager scraps her design.

More events carry her to a satisfying ending. Possibly, her peers back her, and the manager reinstates the design. Then, upper management recognizes her leadership and sends her to management training.

Unlike in the beginning, Abby now knows how to get people to listen to her, is a noteworthy leader, and is on the road to management.

Case 4 could flow with similar events.

Replace interesting story events with events meaningful to your protagonist’s goals. Click to tweet.

What system, such as the Hero’s Journey, do you use to map out events?

How Waiting Brings You Success in Your Creative Work

“When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, “If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” —Exodus 13:17

By Richard Eisermann (1853-1927) (Bonhams) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
By Richard Eisermann (1853-1927) (Bonhams) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Do you ever feel like you’re filled with a creative spirit, and it’s time for you to succeed? So, you work furiously and send your baby out. But ouch! Others don’t see it your way. They give you 5s on a 1-10 scale.

We can embrace a little-accepted but powerful tool that will bring us success. I’ll call it the W-A-I-T tool.

1.  W is for Wonder

file0002075254789We need to ferment.

I want to watch my grandchildren go though all the wonderful steps to becoming fine adults. I don’t want them to miss their time to wonder and to learn how to overcome challenges. I want them to succeed.

God led the Israelites in a roundabout route to the Red Sea. He led them from a life of slavery into a new life. Why the roundabout route? Because He didn’t want them to face war. In their fear and discouragement, He knew they’d give up and turn back.

If we charge forward, the first sign indicating we aren’t ready may cause us to give up and turn back.

Whether we enter into a creative field at fifteen or fifty, we need to be led in a roundabout journey, learning how to wonder, to develop our craft, and to overcome challenges.

2. A is for Act

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur individual creativity needs to ferment.

You must develop and discover your individual stamp by working on it. Try different ideas and methods. Through persevering and production, allow yourself to discover what uniqueness you are called to deliver.

This is usually a good time to enter contests on a regular basis. Then watch scores and comments improve as you learn what in your work delights experts as unique and good.

3. I is for Idle

Our work needs to ferment.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALet the work sit. Overnight, a week, or if necessary, a month, depending on how long it takes you to return to it unbiased.

Much reverberates in our creative minds. Often, the good stuff we see in our imagination fails to make it into the work. Or it gets in but sits there in an awkward manner. Or the good stuff never has a chance to enter our overactive minds.

So, let the work idle. Hours after I’ve finished a scene, a word pops into my mind. Unaware I needed a better word, I find the interjected word is perfect for the scene.

Also, when I return to my work after days, I’ll ask myself, “What did I mean by that sentence?” If I don’t know, then my readers won’t.

Let your work visit a trusted critique partner. They’ll often catch problems that you don’t.

4.   T is for Trust

file9961246654490Our confidence needs to ferment.

Our roundabout journey has grown us. We’ve discovered and developed our individual flare. We’ve let our work stew, and then we honed it. Now, we need to let our baby go to find the right place for it to do the work it was created to do.

The first place we send it might be the wrong place. So, don’t get discouraged. Send it elsewhere. Or find a good agent.

Tweetables

  • Waiting is an excellent tool at several levels in your creative work.
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When has waiting been a boon in your creative work?