All writing tips are not created equal.
Or, among us writers, equally.
Some are so huge, so obvious, that they don’t resonate. This one is like that.
Nobody is above it. Which means, if you missed it, you’ve missed the point.
As someone who reads unpublished manuscripts for a living, and seen the results of this truth not being honored as it should be, I believe it should be a daily manta. I recommend you write it backwards and staple it to your forehead, so that every time you look in the mirror you are reminded of this massively huge, diabolically subtle storytelling OMG truth.
I’ll settle for you pasting it right above your monitor. Read this, notice this, every day you sit down to write.
You may recognize your own dance with this issue right off. If you can’t see the wisdom in it, then you need to pay attention and discover what it means. Because on the list of things that will tank a story, this one is right at the top.
It’s all in the italics.
If you don’t connect to the sub-text of the italics in the next three paragraphs, you’ll miss the point, And the point is career-changing. Here it is, one of the most important writing tips you will ever hear, rendered in three parts:
The objective of storytelling, the point of it all, isn’t to write about something.
The idea isn’t even to write about something.
The highest goal of your storytelling is to write about something happening.
When you can execute the last one and still make your story about something… then and only then will you have elevated your story to the level of art.
At any given moment in your story… in each and every scene of your story… ask yourself: what is happening here? Right now? How does it connect to what’s come before… how does it relate to what will happen next, and thereafter?
You should begin with that last piece as your goal. And then evolve your story to allow it to embrace the first two.
So rather than asking (or answering, when asked) “what’s the story about?”… ask and answer this instead: “what happens in your story?”
When you know the difference, you’ll have crossed a threshold that will empower your stories, and perhaps your writing career, to greatness.