Friday, July 09, 2010

THE WRITE WHISPER: The question you must answer

We've all heard the terms 'premise' and 'theme' bandied around.

And if you're anything like me, having to label my story kinda freaks me out.

If I had to do it, I'd say many of my contemporary romances have been stories of second chances.

But there's something more important than figuring out theme while you're actually writing. Answering the all important STORY QUESTION.

So what is a story question?
It's the question that drives a reader to finish the book or watch a movie.

eg. Will Bella and Edward overcome all obstacles to be together?
Will Woody and Buzz save their toy mates and get played with in safety?

Interestingly, the answer to the question isn't often in doubt.

We know Bella and Edward will overcome all obstacles to live HEA.
We know Woody and Buzz will look after their mates and save the day in the process.

But what's important is getting your reader to care about the story question.
And to do this, we need to get our readers to care about our characters.

Both Bella and Edward are fish out of water characters. They don't belong. They're outcasts/strange in their respective worlds. And Edward is 'out' of this world. But Bella's desire for the vampire is strong. She'll let nothing stand in their way of being together and a powerful desire makes a character more compelling.

Along with getting your reader to care about your characters, your reader should be in doubt how your story question will be resolved. (Even though the ultimate outcome is rarely in doubt.)

eg. Though we strongly suspect Bella and Edward will end up together, they face enormous obstacles in getting there. Jacob, the Volturi, Victoria, their families, the list goes on.

So want to write a great story?

-Create a compelling story question.

-Create a character reader's will root for

-And a reason why they'll support that character through to the end.

-Create obstacles, make it look like that character can't obtain what they want.

-Try to answer your story question in an unexpected way.

Happy writing!


Monique DeVere said...

Great, helpful blog entry, Nicola! Thanks for giving us this gem. I would say my favourite stories are second chance/reunion stories.

Which is probably why most of my own stories fall into this category.


Nicola Marsh said...

You're welcome, Monique.

I'm a sucker for second chance stories too, hence I write loads of them :)

Cruella Collett said...

This is great advice. I do it all the time for my academic writing, but somehow it never occurred to me to do the same (consciously) with fiction. Thanks for sharing! :)

Margaret Mayo said...

Great post, Nicola. I never consciously think along these lines but guess I must do it automatically. I shall now want to make a check list and make sure I'm covering all the points.

Nicola Marsh said...

You're welcome, Cruella.

Hope it helps in your fiction writing too.

Nicola Marsh said...

Want to know a secret, Margaret?

I never do this either!

But I guess with the number of books we've written, we must be doing it subconciously. (esp. with the amazing number of books you've written!!!)

I came across it recently and thought it looked interesting so I posted.
Must take dose of own medicine maybe :)

Lacey Devlin said...

Great post Nic!

It's a really fantastic way of making sure your remember to think outside the box.

Nicola Marsh said...

Thinking outside the box always a good thing, Lacey :)

Glad you liked it.
Anything to keep the creative brain ticking over :)