The story is the foundation of your novel. I was amazed at the workshop how many people didn’t get the concept of story. When asked about story people want to tell you everything their characters are doing and what is happening to them. That isn’t story. That is plot. What they do and what happens to them is all about plot.
Next workshop participants wanted to say it’s a story about how courage leads to redemption. Sorry no, that’s not the story. That was a great job of identifying the theme. What we search for we already possess. Courage leads to redemption. Good stories have a theme.
Anne McClaire taught us at the writer workshop last week that the story is the engine and GPS of your novel. Once you know the story everything else falls in place and you won’t get pulled off track in the progress of your plot.
The story is that central idea the little kernel that probably started with “What if?” the story begins with that flash idea. Once you get your “What if?” started you begin to ask “Why does it matter?” “and because of that. . . ” These questions lead to plot development. Through that “What if?” and following questions leading to plot, theme, character, and then setting pulls out of that. The “Why did that happen?” gives you the backstory to mix in as little snipits here a little and there a little.
Story is the Sun of your novel. Everything revolves around the story. From the story you can discover the structure, the time and duration of the novel, the POV, the tense. All those things that create the envelope or framework of the novel and yes the theme and plot components.
Take the challenge to describe your story in 25 words or less. Doing that exercise will pare away the plot and all the extras that while essential are not the kernel of story.
What you have when you are finished is the answer when an agent or editor asks you “What is your story about?”
It’s the story of: “A sexy forestry firefighter falls for single mother D.J. who is afraid to trust that love and committment can be forever with a dangerous man.” 25 words.
Take the challenge. What do you come up with for your story?