Saturday, October 22, 2011

6 Steps in Developing a Story

1. Begin a story with an event outside the character of the protagonist that starts a chain reaction of causally related events.
  This is basic to story telling; However, occasionally a new writer will meander through world building (a no-no) during the beginning of their story and lose the impact of the start of the plot or story line.

2. Creating causally related events in a story one creates a single (sometimes more than one) major complication and minor complications within the framework of the major complication, including an ante-climax complication that resolves the major complication.
I know, blah blah blah. In other words,  every story has a main arc involving the protagonist in which a major complication is dealt with and over come at the end of the story. There are also minor problems in sub-arcs that may involve the protagonist or could involve other characters which are resolved before or simultaneously with the major complication.

3. Okay real basic. A complication in traditional stories is something unpleasant that happens to a character which, if the character had the freedom of choice, he would have chosen not to happen.
   This provides the reader with an unknown that will engage the reader through the whole of the story, so we are talking both major and intriguing. Will the chief motivating force (the drive in the protagonist created by the complication) succeed or fail to reach its tangible objective? In most stories  the answer is yes. In the tragedy the answer is usually no, although there is a variant of tragedy where the chief motivating force drives the protagonist to resolve the major complication and yet is unaware of his success and in despair does something tragically irreversible.

4. The major difference between a story with plot and a story with story line.
   In a story with plot the emphasis is on the events and the protagonist emerges from the story with his character relatively unchanged from what it was in the beginning. This is sometimes referred as circular storytelling. How can a plot which can be described as a linear progression be circular? It actually isn't. Tthe plot is linear while the internal workings of the character is circular. He may go though many trials and tribulations that change him dramatically but with the resolution of the major conflict the protagonist returns to his former personality and situation with only more life experience to show for all his troubles.
In a story with a story line the emphasis is on character, and the protagonist always emerges from the story with his character different from the way it was in the beginning of the story because of character development or character disintegration (more on that in a later post). This may seem contrary to logic on first blush but once you dig deeper into the mechanics of each it becomes clear.
A story with plot is always external to the protagonist. He is contending with things happening outside of him and his basic personality shapes how he deals with each complication altering the state of the story but not the personality of the protagonist.
A story with story line deals with the internal struggle of the protagonist and how he must change himself to deal effectively with each complication.

5. Lets look at readers for a moment. In every story there comes a point of recognition in the reader at which he knows whether the chief motivating force is going to succeed or fail to reach its tangible objective.
In a plot driven story the point of recognition should always be delayed until near the end of the story. The climax may end the story or a very brief  post climax tying up the loose ends of subplots.
In a story line driven novel the point of recognition may be reached at nearly any point in the story. The protagonist may be blind to the truth and reality of the situation and the chief motivating force will continue to struggle to reach its tangible objective.

6. More Mumbo Jumbo, read carefully. As a result of the irreversible causally related events that have preceded it, an event must occur that causes an ante-climax complication (or more than one). This in turn forces the protagonist to make a decision that resolves the major complication, or that decision is forced upon him by another character or characters.
This is complex in the reading but simple in writing a story. I'll have to give an example. In The Grapes of Wrath the ante-climax complication that resolves the first major complication occurs soon after the Joad family arrives in California. They come to the conclusion that they have been tricked by the hand bills about California and have simply traded one bad environment for another one. They are then faced with with the second major complication of trying to survive in the new environment and keep the family together. This is a complication affecting each of them individually and as individuals meet up with new irreversible causally related events culminating in ante-climax complications that finally resolve the major complication and divides the family into individuals taking separate courses.