Thursday, November 15, 2012
Story is king by Terry Burns
Maybe that's what is important to them, but if the story doesn't work chances are someone is not going to read far enough to get the message. And the message should never overshadow the story if it's going to work. The story must be king.
I think most of us are storytellers. When my brother and I were young we might begin playing together by setting up a scenario something like this: "What if I was a Sheriff back in the old west?"
"And what if I was an outlaw?"
"And you robbed a bank."
"And you came after me but I was too smart and set an ambush."
"But I saw the ambush and . . ."
We'd go on and on, our imaginations setting scenario after scenario, often the planning for it taking more time than we actually spent playing. Other cousins would often join in.
That where so many stories come from, a character, a place, a thing or an idea and beginning to ask "what if?"
So many of us lose touch with that storyteller instinct. We forget we know how. Then again, being able to tell a story and being able to write it in a manner that it is worthy of publication are two entirely different things. We can learn the latter if we apply ourselves to it, but the ability to come up with and tell good stories, even if we all know how to do it, the ability to do it well can be an elusive gift.
I did a workshop for the school system in the little town of Groom, Texas. Students from the 5th grade through high school were in the session. We did the what if game they immediately jumped into the spirit of it.
I asked one student for a what if and she said, "What if I had a puppy?"
I asked the boy next to her and he said, "And what if that puppy was really a space alien?" Trust a boy to go that way with it. We went on for some time building our story and it was fascinating. The high school kids were a little "too cool" to really get into it, but it reinforced my idea that we all know how to play the game.
Have you ever gone shopping for a story idea and just focused on something, almost anything, and just asked, "What if?"