On March 7th, this column challenged you to build a story piece by piece. Now it's time for Show and Tell. But before we get to that, let's talk about what we did and why.
The idea of building a story from the ground up was not to lay out the correct way to build a story. Nor was it to show you how to build a better story.
The purpose was to hopefully help you become a better builder.
If we were constructing a house, then yes, there is a correct way to do that. You start with the foundation...
No wait, maybe you don't.
A lot of houses these days are built on assembly lines and the foundation is constructed on the customer's site independently of what is happening in the factory. In fact, events in the factory are somewhat independent of each other. So even building something as well-defined and regulated as a house – can be done in surprisingly different and counter-intuitive ways.
So the question for writers is not how to build a story because there are an infinite number of correct ways to do that, but like I said, how to become a better builder.
So how do you become better at anything?
The best way is to do it a lot. But there is a problem with that. Doing something a lot only makes you better at the things you are doing. If you are not practicing an aspect of something, you are not going to become better at it. That is why almost all training breaks things down and practices the skills.
The inspiration for the series came from this column where I talked about teaching third-grade girls how to become good at basketball. I did it by creating weird rules, like only dribbling with the left hand or advancing by passing backwards.
It is analogous to what you were challenged to do by building a story piece by piece.
First we isolated and practiced setting, then plot, then character and finally theme. Of course building a story like this is hard - just as hard as dribbling with the left hand is for a right-handed person.
The reason for separating these story elements from your natural writing process was to shift the focus from the whole to the parts, not to build a better whole but to hopefully build better parts.
So now it time for Show and Tell.
This week's challenge: Show a story and tell us something about the parts.
Also let's talk about whether this worked for you and whether you would like to see similar exercises in the future.
- Post your article to Gather Writing Essentials.
- Tag your submission with MWE.
- Tag your submission with "Story".
- Include "Monday Writing Essential" in your title.
Last week's challenge to "Describe a theme you have used in a story" drew the following responses:
Weekly reminder: don't forget to recommend an article that you like (to learn why, read Ann Marcaida's article Attract More Writers and Artists to Gather!).. Also try to place a comment on at least one article and say more than you liked the piece. Tell the author what worked and what needs work.