I struggle a lot with the structure of storytelling. So in the last few weeks, I’ve been focusing on the basic basics of short story writing: who is the main character and what does she want?
In response to last week’s (work is nuts, I’m a little behind) writing prompt at Chuck Wendig’s blog, I am writing a story about a prospector. Someone steals her claim maps the night before she heads out into the bush. What does she want? Easy, I thought, she wants her maps back.
I spent a week and a half trying to outline a story with that thought in mind. A hundred variations, scribbled notes, false starts. And then I had an epiphany: she doesn’t want the maps. The maps are a tool. She uses the maps to make money, and she uses the money to buy what she really wants. Which is companionship, in this particular case.
Once I understood that, I knew what my final scene was. And once I know where I’m headed, I can write the connective tissue to get me there.
(That has been my other epiphany in recent weeks: if I don’t know the shape of the final scene, then I’ll mire down in the middle of the story and never finish it. Always know the end point.)
I think the lesson is a little too specific (maps are just a tool!) to fix all my writing problems in one go. But it’s definitely a step in the right direction.