Now it’s time for a solo flight … almost.
In the Arranging Words article, I presented a Basic Formula for outlining a story. It’s not new information. Any writing workshop will teach the same material. From ancient mythologies to modern Broadway shows and Disney movies, it’s the same basic formula: a problem, a hero, the struggles to overcome the problem, the inevitable set backs, strengthening and regrouping and, finally, victory. The variety comes with the specifics of each story.
Problems can mean dragons, natural disasters, any kind of villain, diseases, poverty, disabilities, etc.
Heroes can be the swashbuckling sort like superheroes, knights, generals and kings. Or they can be the anti-hero types, the clumsy, nerdy, underdog types that are totally unimpressive, until suddenly we see what they’re really made of.
The setbacks are anything that gets thrown at the hero to prevent the inevitable victory. Throw everything you’ve got at them. Stack the odds against them. Make it look utterly hopeless … until … the unlikely miraculous things happen and the day is won!
Storytelling is exciting!
If you’ve been following October’s blogs, and doing the writing exercises I suggested, you’re well on your way to putting a story of your own together. You’ve been practicing writing, and learning to put your thoughts into written words. You’ve been observing and describing in writing real life people and senarios, which is a great way to learn to learn how characters need to interact with one another.
So now I want you to learn how this Basic Formula is incorporated into every story. Here are the 6 steps:
1. Introduce your main character, the hero of the story
2. Bring in some kind of conflict or difficult-to-reach goal for the main character
3. The main character struggles and fails to overcome the conflict or reach the goal
4. The main character searches for answers outside of himself
5. The main character is strengthened to the point where he at last succeeds in overcoming the conflict or reaching the goal
6. Close with a satisfying ending
See the Arranging Words article for more details on each step. But you can print this shortened list out on paper and keep it nearby when you are reading books, or graphic novels and magazines, or watching movies or television shows. Any story will follow this basic pattern. Once you learn to recognize it, you will see the pattern in every story you watch or read.
It won’t always be in this exact order. Many times the problem or the conflict is presented first, then the hero is sought out. Sometimes the hero will turn out to be somebody unexpected. The hero may not even be a person. It could be a force of nature, and the victory comes purely by chance.
In some stories, the third and fourth steps are combined into the major part part of the story, like in stories where the hero has to set out on a journey to find some key to unlocking his final victory. On his way to find that key he might have many adventures.
Sometimes the fifth step is the main part of the story, when the main character's allies and friends rally around him to build him up and encourage him not to give up.
Some stories have unhappy endings. The hero fails. There generally will be some bit of redeeming value in those stories … hard lessons are lessons nonetheless, though it’s lots more fun to have happy endings full of hope.
The possibilities are endless. The formula stays the same.
When you’re watching and reading, watch for the pattern and study how those particular writers wove their story together.
And when you feel ready, now it’s time for your own solo flight …
Outline a short story of your own. I presume, because you’re here on my website, it will be a children’s story, but it doesn’t have to be.
Decide who your characters will be and what they are like, what struggles they will be facing, how they’ll overcome in the end. Then write it all out. Make it interesting. Keep your readers on the edge of their seat. Convince them all is lost, then have your hero swoop in and save the day!
Now you're not merely writing ... you're an author!