Why do we watch movies and read fiction? What are we looking for?
There are endless resources for writing fiction. Many of them include the same essential elements – inciting incident, plot, character arc, theme, conflict, tension, etc. But the truth about what makes a great story runs much deeper than that.
We turn to stories for truths about the world we live in – spiritual, psychological, and societal truths. We are always looking to learn something, and that’s what a good story does for us.
The fundamental nature of “plot” is to give your hero a quest and throw obstacles in his path to prevent them from reaching their goal. I believe the next step is the most overlooked aspect of a powerful story.
The main character must learn something to complete their quest. That’s it. That’s the secret of a moving story. If you can do that, you are already taking care of character arc, theme, internal conflict, and character growth. The way to formulate that in a compelling way is what determines the strength of your story.
If you are a writer, start observing the obstacles in your own life. What character trait gets in the way of accomplishing your own goals? Even something as simple as procrastination provides a life lesson for us. Why do we procrastinate? When I find myself too overwhelmed to complete the task that will bring me closer to my goal, I ask myself why. Many times it’s a fear of something – the fear of failure, the fear of the unknown, the fear of wasting time and effort on an eventually failed pursuit.
Just like that, you have everything you need for a story. For example:
Joe is at the post office one day when he meets a beautiful girl who inexplicably decides to give him her number (inciting incident). He forgets to call her when his ex returns to his life (obstacle). When he does call her, she is much more reluctant to go out after learning that he’s been talking to his ex (obstacle). Joe decides to tell his ex that their relationship is over for good. He calls the girl again, tells her that he wants to see her and only her, and she accepts his idea for a date.
The story can go on from here with new obstacles and lessons to be learned. But every major event needed for a story is included above. What did Joe learn? That if he truly wants to create a new and loving relationship, he’s going to have to move on from past relationships (theme).
I’m not a great writer by any means, but I have spent years studying the story telling essentials. All that I’m trying to do with my new youtube channel is tell good stories. I guess that’s why I made this post – there’s so many formulaic stories out there, short films that are weighed down by editing techniques, and movies that are weighted and shackled by their own genre. I’m trying to approach “Mountain Cult” with a more liberal view. I want to craft stories that provide actual life lessons. At the end of the day, when we think of the movies that mean’t the most to us, I believe it’s because they taught us something about ourselves that continue to help us navigate through our own lives. I hope that in some way this post can help you create your own stories. There’s way too many pencil petes out there telling you what you can and cannot do with a story, and I don’t think we need any more of them.
Below is episode 1 of my webseries if you’d like to check it out and tell me how disappointed you are to discover you just took advice from a guy whose writing is amateur at best.