What’s Your Story About?

Did you write down your idea? What did you start with, a character, setting or event? Where you able to take your idea and determine who the hero could be? I have. I took an evening off the novel and put together some notes about a possible hero. Now you have to ask the big question;

What’s your story about? When you are asked this question what is your answer? Many writers ramble on for minutes about their stories while others stumble over their thoughts because they haven’t given it any thought. Of course there are log lines and tag lines, but neither are what your story is about. The Log Line is often created by marketing people to help advertise the film and completed right at the end of the process. At this point of the developments process is also too early for a Log Line, but we’ll get to it shortly.

It’s About..?

Do you remember writing classes in grade school when your teacher wanted you to write an essay or story based on a specific theme, such as What I Did On Summer Vacation? That is what your story is about. It is the theme of your story. In the last article I mentioned Star Wars: The Force Awakens and that the lead character, Rey, suffered from loneliness and a longing belong which is actually the film’s theme. Other characters in the film also shared the same feelings. Kylo, Han, Leia and Finn all experienced either loneliness or a lack of belonging or both. The theme you select should be woven through as must of your story as you can. Obviously, Han and Leia were lonely, Kylo wanted to wanted by Snoak but it is Rey, the hero, that strongly experiences BOTH themes.

At this point in the process you have your idea, whether it is a character, event or location and we were able to use our starting point to develop the hero (the character that you first thought of may not be the hero) but you know very little, if anything, about your hero. We will discuss our hero in the next article, but right now we need to determine the theme, or what your stories about. I describe the theme as a negative emotion. Why is it negative; because negativity leads to conflict much easier than positivity. Imagine a time were you were feeling fear about something you had to do, and a friend was trying to help you do it, but you argued with your friend – that was conflict. Your friend wanted you to do something, but you didn’t want to do it because your were afraid. Negative emotions can create conflict even between two people who are otherwise friends.


Negative Emotion  


Negative Emotion









































While the list about is not complete, it is a great starting point. Please, feel free to add to it if you’d like. I’ve designed the chart to appear this way as it is how tables are displayed in Dungeons & Dragons books. Not everyone has D&D dice so I have numbered the chart for 4D6 (four 6-sided dice or roll one die four times) and add up the results, giving you a result between 4 and 24, but the chart doesn’t have a 4. If your roll a 4 (each die displays a one when rolled), then instead of two you are rolling for THREE negative emotions to work into your story (ignore any additional rolls of 4). Once you’ve finished rolling the dice you have two (or maybe three) different negative emotions written down. Now you need to figure out what to do with them.

Now What?

So I have rolled the following two emotions; Despair and Regret. An interesting combination, but when someone asks, I can now say, “My story is about despair and regret.” It lacks detail but that’s what we’re going to work towards next. Start with a fresh page (paper or digital) and start by defining your two (or three) emotions, as I have below.

despair (n): the complete loss or absence of hope
regret (v): feel sad, repentant, or disappointed over (something that has happened or been done, especially a loss or missed opportunity)

Right away you can see how these two negative emotions can work together against the hero. But you need to remember that each of these theme threads need to run through your entire story. Maybe the villain acts because of their despair. Maybe the hero as a friend who regrets an action (or lack of action) in their past. You can see how two emotions can very quickly lay down the foundation for your characters.

To wrap up this article, take an hour or two and sit down and write a number of situations were a character could feel your selected emotions. Include a time when you felt each of the feelings you have selected, without embellishment.When we return next month we’re going to get building our hero in some detail based on the notes you come up with.

– Steve


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