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What’s your story about?

An author friend and I were talking the other night, and I asked her the dreaded question: “What’s your book about?”

Now, I’ve read her books and I’m familiar with the characters and plots, but I wanted to know the story behind the story so I stopped her before she went through the whole routine she has to give at book signings. I asked for her theme, her motivation, her reason for writing the story. Then we got to the real stuff, and it was good.

The occasion was actually an interview, so look for the details here as soon as I listen to the recording and edit out the meat from four hours of conversation, inquiring waiters, and late-joiners to the party. And there is the thing of which we will not speak. Denny’s may never be the same. <grin>

Anyway, here’s the thing. In my experience, the most satisfying stories involve more than “this event occurred, then that action happened, then it wrapped up with this ending.” Sure, it’s great when a hero goes off and saves the world, but it’s better when he is saved in the process, too. And when I can identify with the hero’s struggles and rejoice when he triumphs, well, maybe I can find some meaning along the way.

When I began to write The King of Silk, I thought it was about this fellow who goes back in time with only the knowledge in his head to depend upon for survival. I was curious about what he would do with that knowledge, and how ethics would play a part. But after a while, I realized that part of the story was external. The story is really about his willingness to face his demons. I hope that part comes through.

My work in process includes some of “this thing happened” stuff. But I’m trying to be more cognizant of the “why this thing happened” and the message I’d like to pass along.

Gladly entertaining your thoughts.

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Categories: writing Tags: ,
  1. January 22, 2011 at 6:49 am

    I don’t think stories are ever about one event leading to another leading to a conclusion. I think they are about people placed in troubling situations and the choices they make to get out of or avoid the situtations. Which of course, leads them to the next situation. As in real life, character is exposed best under troubling circumstances.

  2. January 23, 2011 at 12:14 am

    I always try to have a blurb ready about what my story/book is about. I get that early on, and it reads somewhat like a blurb at the dusk jacket of the book. So I satisfy some of the “what happens” physically, but also what happens with my character, too, without giving away the story or its ending.

  3. vicky
    January 24, 2011 at 1:20 am

    I’ve been struggling with the same inside/outside issues as I develop a piece about 2020 here in the Panhandle. What might it look like? How might we (characters) change in this process? Thanks.

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