On to the matter at hand. I applaud all of the authors of our serial story, "Out of the Garden." Such inventive minds! The characters are fully realized and the potential for conflict with Peta is very real. And there have been lots of fun surprises. You are talented writers!!! (Sorry for shouting.) Not bad at all for thirteen different writers, who never discussed the story.
There was an important element missing--no one's fault but an excellent chance to learn--we'll be talking about today.
Bonnie introduced me to John Truby's book, The Anatomy of Story, a few years ago. I've studied it like a sacred document and mentioned it here many times. I know, here I go again.
In the "story world," Truby describes a dramatic code, which is a template we all have embedded in our brains that expects a person/character to change over time. Our characters don't change in a vacuum. "Change is fueled by desire."
We aren't necessarily talking sex here, but keep reading anyway.
The DESIRE is what the character wants in the story, not in her lifetime, just within the context of the story, a goal. At the beginning of our story, it seems that Maeve's desire is to move on from grief to life, a laudable goal but not easily measured for success.
And so, while our story has become rich with interesting characters and revelations, not much has happened. Maeve isn't moving toward her desire, and desire is the driving force of a story. We hadn't decided what that was for Maeve, and we probably would have stumbled upon her desire eventually, as pantsers do in their multiple drafts.
And so, we could have continued on, but if we didn't know her desire, how would we have known when she achieved it and resolved the story for the reader's satisfaction?
We average over 1,000 readers each week for the story! They're expecting action toward desire (even though they may not exactly know that beyond their subconscious) and a satisfying resolution.
That doesn't mean Maeve must accomplish her goal. She may decide that her goal was misguided, switch goals, and pursue the new goal. That's fine. She may discover that what she pursued was always withing reach too.
Here's something else about desire, according to Truby: "Desire is intimately connected to NEED. In most stories, when the hero accomplishes his goal, he also fulfills his need."
Let's say, then, that Maeve's need is to move from grief to life. She still requires a desire that can be accomplished within the scope of the story that will help her fulfill her need.
Just to clarify: NEED has to do with overcoming a weakness within the character. Maeve can't get her feet under her to live without Don. DESIRE is a goal outside the character. And that's what gives the story legs. The hero is overcoming obstacles, trying and failing, and pushing hard to achieve his desire.
The story now has its legs, its desire. We would have come up with something, but we feared we'd be writing this lovely little story beyond anyone's attention span. Writers definitely don't want to run into that problem.
The only thing tougher than writing a strong beginning to a story is writing a strong ending that satisfies the reader. We're well on our way of doing just that.