What makes a story? Is it the plot? Is it the characters? Is it both? Yes and no. You can have the best plot in all the world, but if no one cares about your characters living the plot, then the story doesn’t succeed. The U.S. Declaration of Independence talks about as our main goal…life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Steven James, in his book Troubleshooting Your Novel, says “Stories are not about happily ever after. They’re about the pursuit of happiness.” Story-fixing your plot so that it is the by-product of the pursuit, not its precursor makes for better reading. Click to Tweet #amwriting #story-fixing
Pursuit –– chase, hunt, search, quest, detection. Those are synonyms. What you want to do with your novel is have your character be involved with exploits of clear objective.
What does your protagonist/antagonist want? What steps will they take to get what they want? What hindrances can you come up with to impede the pursuit? How will the characters respond to those delays?
As part of dialogue, one character can spell out to another their intentions.
Combine action with intention in every scene. Use every means at your disposal, such as dialogue, narration, or character’s own thoughts to clarify the goal to readers. Verify the pursuit by showing that the characters are pursuing their objective in believable ways.
Fine-Tuning Your Manuscript
- Reveal protagonist’s character by showing the passions and priorities through actions and choices, rather than telling they are a certain type of person.
- How well have you defined the pursuit? Is it stated outright or shown?
- Will the protagonist’s life be changed by the pursuit? As part of this, how hard does the protagonist try to get life back to “normal?”
- How catastrophic will failure to achieve the goal be? Is it well defined? Why is the pursuit important? What is the protagonist trying to prove, hide, or reveal?
- If the goal of the pursuit is reached, will the protagonist be satisfied? Or will they find it wasn’t what they really wanted?
- How well will the readers identify with the pursuit? Will they care? If not, what secrets, hidden wounds can you give the protagonist to help the reader want to care about what happens to this character?
It’s wonderful to write out the story that comes from your heart and your head. Hopefully it flows out smoothly. The pursuit of happiness is something many of us think is a God-given right. Story-fixing your novel around your character chasing his or her dreams makes for a compelling story. Click to Tweet #amwriting #story-fixing