Welcome to November and Day One of NaNoWriMo. I, for one, am both nervous and excited at the prospect of what this month entails. But I digress…
This post is about the Blog Chain! It was my turn to pick a topic. And so, in honor of NaNo and story construction, I decided to ask the following question:
How do you create a wonderfully dramatic story? Are there any questions you ask yourself, or specific things you keep in mind to ensure that you have the level of tension necessary to propel the story forward?
Most people who know me know that I need a structure when I write. So, do I outline? Yes…and no. Really I ask myself three questions. Now, these are not “Christine-original” questions…these are things I have learned in talking with other writers, reading about the craft and reading agent, editor and publishing blogs.
Okay – so onto my self-reflection questions:
- What does the main character want? Based on things I have read, I separate this into a couple of things…first, what does the main character want before the first turning point (the catalyst for everything else that happens in the story); and secondly, how does the catalyst derail the main character from getting what they want. I think the way they deal with that is also essential to the story. The more dramatically I deal with this, while keeping the writing tight, the more compelling a read.
- What is at stake for the main character? I have had endless convos with crit partners and fellow writers about this one. For me this is HUGE….no stakes involved in attaining the goal, no drama. And, in my opinion, NO STORY. The more emotionally intense the stakes, the more emotionally involved the reader, and the more likely you will craft a story that compels a reader to turn the page.
- In EVERY scene, what is the inner tension of the moment? And how does this relate to the dramatic arc of the story itself? For me, this is the one I really focus on with the rewrites I am involved in. I am going through each and every scene to determine whether it follows its own dramatic arc – and whether or not that is in line with the overall storyline. Inner tension, the stuff we talked about last time when we talked about fear, creates strong characters and a compelling emotional context. Those thing add significantly to the overall story line and dramatic impact.
So there you go, my formula, if you will, for a strong story with a gripping dramatic storyline. What are your secrets for creating this? Do you even think about it?
Check out Sarah’s post for her take on this subject. Happy NaNo everyone. Check in often for updated progress reports.