The past couple of posts have discussed with growing detail the tools of storytelling - last week focused on the gauge we need to measure just what the story will be about and how it will operate. This week is no different. Now that we know what we plan on writing, it's time to start laying out a blueprint for the story, and any good blueprint requires a proper set of drafting tools. Ours are not as elaborate as the ones engineers use, but the purpose is the same: To lay out the framework for our story.
Once we know what we want to write, think of the following:
- Who is telling the story? You? Someone else? A specific person? Are they a witness or a participant?
- Past tense or present (or a blend of both)? First-person or third-person voice? Factual story, pure fiction, or a fictitious telling of an actual story?
- Are they the protagonist? Antagonist?
- Do they convey the desired message through success or failure?
- Is the ending conclusive or open for interpretation?
The first two bullets are about structure - creating a sturdy framework for a good story, that should fit the tone. It's difficult (but not impossible) to tell a story that involves a character's deep thought and introspection in the present tense, and insights are more challenging from the third-person. Personal stories can be turned into fiction, but that doesn't work the other way around. Also, old stories told in present tense may require an age-appropriate voice.
These are the natural offshoots of what we gauged in the previous post. We first need to know what we want to say before we try to say it. As this story structure takes shape, we draw in the details and make the more intricate choices that bring out our writing. Like a skilled architect deciding between designs, we consider which one meets our needs. First-person storytelling is more intimate but isolated within one character's mind, whereas third-person opens things up at the cost of emotional privacy. First-person testimonials limit our suspense but offer truths, while fiction opens possibilities but can compromise believability.
The last three bullets are where the fun begins; the story emerges. This is where we consider the good and evil, the weight of what we want to tell the reader and how we want them to feel afterward. This doesn't have to be a heavy decision - sometimes we have already answered these. If we decided that the story would discuss our experiences being a bully as a teenager, and how something so wrong felt so right in that moment, then those questions have answered themselves. Our only obligation is to make sure that the message we want to leave the reader with matches the pieces we are putting in place.
At this point, we start to build... uhh... write our story. That comes with its own set of tools, and I'll gladly discuss them in Friday's post. All I ask is that beforehand, you bring your safety goggles.