Your Story – An Analogy That Can Get You Published

Someone recently told me that the posts here on Storyfix – not to mention my writing workshops – are very much a 101 proposition.  Entry level.  It’s boot camp, spring training, freshman creative writing.

So be it.  That’s not remotely a bad thing.

I’d say that well over 99% of the writers out there, including myself and the vast majority of published writers, need to focus right here in this 101 wheelhouse – because we make or break our writing dream with our evolving grasp of the fundamentals. 

The rest is just style and taste, things that are easier learned than taught.

I was watching Californication on Showtime last night – David Duchovny’s homage to Los Angeles literary decadence – and it was postulated that writing cannot be taught.  It can only be shown and then hopefully, doubtfully, discovered.

That’s not today’s analogy – it’s not an analogy at all – but it is an interesting proposition.

That same someone challenged me to come up with something really advanced.  Something grad school, high-minded, esoteric and downright chewy, something intellectually challenging for even the most jaded and worn-out of writers.

Welcome to the coolest analogy for a story I’ve ever heard. 

One that, when you apply it to the books and movies you love, will instantly validate itself in your jaded, worn-out writer’s mind.

We think of our stories in terms of what they are.   We write mysteries, we write romances, we write science fiction.  They are novels and screenplays and short stories and memoirs and the occasional abbreviated tweet.

What is genre and category, and it’s something you absolutely need to understand if you aspire to being published.

Valid as this is, and as important as the rules of genre are, there’s another way to think about your story. 

Maybe even a better way.  A way that can impart an essence otherwise difficult to describe, an elusive value-add that might very well take it to a higher level, however subtle.  Because subtlety is required.

Roll with me on this.  It can be hard to wrap your head around at first.

Try thinking of your story in terms of who, rather than what.

Because at the end of the day an effective story is very much like a person.  It’s a creation that is alive with personality.  It has strengths and weaknesses, it has moods and aspirations and regrets and deeply held values.

It is multi-faceted, unpredictable, perhaps even dangerous and toxic. 

It is beautiful or scarred, perhaps both, in its unique way.

It can nurture, it can heal, it can inspire to exhilarating heights.

It can drive you mad, titillate and frustrate, infuriate and instigate.

Just like the people you know best in this world.

When you view your story through this lens, you must ask yourself – what is the personality of my story?  What is the humor, the warmth, the agenda, the barely hidden angst, the bubbling enthusiasm, the untapped potential, the buried truth, of this person that has taken the form of a story?

The answer, the reflection, isn’t solely that of your protagonist. 

Because like an individual, a story is the sum of environment and culture juxtaposed against the frail complexities of an individual, and as such encompasses the collective whole of what you’ve created on the page.

So step back from your story and regard what you’re bringing into the world, perhaps as a parent regards a child or a betrothed beholds a mate. 

Is that person, this being that you have summoned forth as a story, a gift to the universe?  A fresh surprise and a source of energy and inspiration?  A window into something otherwise unseen?

Perhaps, with this perspective, you may sense a moment that can be seized or a spec of dust that can be cleaned away. Listen closely, because this person that has become your story may whisper something to you that you can spin into literary gold.

For it is that level of detail, the management of the imperceptible and the engineering of the diabolically subtle, that will breath the stuff of life into your story, and thus make it reach out to caress and seduce the reader in ways and with repercussions even you, its creator, cannot fathom.

Just as your child will touch those whom you will never meet.

Just as it’s already grabbed you

So, too, must you introduce it to – and prepare it for – the world, as you would your child. 

Because once introduced it stands alone, armed only with what you’ve imparted to it, with whatever measure of love and wisdom you have in you.

7 Comments

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7 Responses to Your Story – An Analogy That Can Get You Published

  1. S. Megan Payne

    This is an amazing post. I think I’m going to hang it somewhere and let it work in my head (and heart and pen) while I write. I wish I could say all the things it makes me want to say, but methinks you’ve rendered me near speechless.

  2. Please don’t do the advanced thing. There are other blogs for that. Your very straightforward focus on the fundamentals is much needed. I find value in both, the fundamentals and the advanced storytelling blogs.

  3. Larry, this is Fantastic!

    While I acknowledge that we need, must have, the technical aspects of story telling in our stories, they need to be like our own bones, muscles and tendons. They need to stay out of sight. What you talk about here is what needs to show.

    Either without the other is useless.

    An inviting “person” of a story without the proper structure will be mush – as we would be without our bones and muscles.

    A technically correct story with no face or personality has little appeal – as would most of us if we walked about as fleshless muscles and bones.

    Your analogy here is wonderful! You speak so often of the support structure that talking about adding the flesh and personality makes it all complete.

    I find the drone of technical info on writing begins to crush all the interest in it for me. Even if it is the hardest work I’ve ever done, if it is interesting it is worth it. This blog will help so many of us keep the interest in our writing alive.

    Wonderful!
    Thank you!

    Sandra

  4. What a stunner! Just as I was about to log off on a Friday evening, my brain gets reactivated!

    I’d so love to be ringside with you and the person blinkered enough to tell you this blog is Writing 101. There wouldn’t be anything wrong with it if it were, but the concepts you embrace and distil here go so much deeper than that. Today’s piece is the proof.

    I’ve been taking and delivering writing classes for decades. But you, more than any mentor I’ve met in years, make me feel like I’m a writer who’s capable of doing so much more than I’m allowing myself to. You open doors into explorations of how I feel about creativity and writing in a way that inspires me but keeps me grounded in the real world at the same time. Your blog is the bridge between me feeling that my dream of being published is hopeless and a happy ending so close I can taste it.

    You’re the only writing coach who has ever made me feel like decades of film and TV drama addiction have built into a treasure trove. Yet again, with this post, you’ve helped me peel back the layers of what it is that stops me going for the novel or screenplay I know I have in me.

    This brought tears to my eyes.

    Is that person, this being that you have summoned forth as a story, a gift to the universe? A fresh surprise and a source of energy and inspiration? A window into something otherwise unseen?

    I know what I long to achieve, and I’m simply not good enough yet. As a parent and a coach, someone who loves Scrooged as much as A Christmas Carol, I long to create a story that will cause even the tiniest of shifts, that will warm hearts, stir souls or find echoes in another’s mind. I long to create something that will feel like a friend on someone’s bookshelf or leave the kind of memories that linger like a lost love.

    Sometimes stories are born unexpectedly. Sometimes they’re planned. But they all need nurture, love and structure or they shrivel and die. And they all start with seeds.

    Elitist writing sites stifle and stunt. My fourteen year old daughter could give some of them a run for their money when it comes to talking about what makes one film work and another flop. She hasn’t had her freshness and immediacy knocked out of her yet by years of being told what she should think is ‘good’. She can still respond with her instincts, her gut and her emotions, like we instinctively respond to some people. She’d get this post. Explaining the complex simply doesn’t make this Writing 101.

  5. Wow, what a way to look at it!

    It makes it so clear and yet it glimpses into the vast complexities of what we writers endeavour to create. To affect the world around us is a monumental task and yet it is one we take on with fervor and zeal. We shout at the storm of ridicule and Sinicism and forge on ahead; our only real adversary being our doubts and insecurities.

    I once heard that writers think themselves gods….and in a way we are. We are gods of our own creations. We need to be sure that like the grand creation that is our world everything is in balance.

    I wonder sometimes. What was God thinking about when he created us? The little things that inspire us to create can be as simple as a conversation or a movie. What was it that made God wake up one day and say.

    “I think I’ll create man today.”

  6. Sometimes I lose sight of why I write and this entry reminded me – so that my words can move others like yours do. Thank you!

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