Creating Story Equals Problem SolvingPosted: August 8, 2016
Writers are problem solvers. That’s what we do. Solve problems. It doesn’t matter whether you’re fleshing out a plotline for your latest novel or working up a beat sheet for a screenplay, our job is to figure out how to avoid or circumvent any obstacles that prevent your characters from reaching their goals. Of course, we also create some of the obstacles on purpose, because that is another thing that we do. We put our main characters through hell.
But, that’s not all. I’m also talking about things like faulty logic, which makes it impossible for your characters to do something you need them to do in the story, or things that don’t make sense or pull the reader out of the story, or when there’s too big of a stretch, too much disbelief to be suspended. These are the hurdles we, as writers, must overcome to not just tell the story, but to tell the story well.
Problem solving. That’s what creating story comes down to, and it’s our job, as story creators, to shape the story to make sense, have plausibility and flow smoothly. It’s our job to think through plot lines and make the story work by our clever crafting of words. It’s our job to make sure each character completes their personal story arc, and ensure that the main story arc flows through to the desired conclusion. It’s our job to help the main characters face their fears, overcome their fatal flaws and conquer any obstacles we throw at them along the way. And, it’s our job to be sure the story is believable and makes sense.
Does a story have to have eloquent language? No, although some do. Does it have to have a happy ending? Only if it is a romance. Does it have to make us laugh? If it’s a comedy, but humor is allowed in almost every genre.
There are things a story does have to have. Every story does have to have a beginning, middle and end. At least the main story arc and those of your main characters must be completed, moving the story along and showing character growth and transformation.
A story does have to have a certain logic to it, and it has to have characters who are relatable enough to make your audience care. There are ways to do both, and so much more, if you know how to write a well-crafted story. Robin Conley has made some great suggestions on how to make your audience care in her Weekly Writing Memo, each Wednesday, (or Thursday), here on Writing to be Read.
So, the next time you’re applying for a writing gig, be sure to put down problem solver as one of your many impressive skills. You won’t be lying. Creating Story = Problem Solving.