The building blocks of story

Every writer eventually figures out a system of story building that works best. Some use a plot skeleton, with each part of the skeleton representing a component of story. Others use a checklist system. Still others rely upon the GMC model (goals, motivation, conflict). Any of them will help you craft a plot. Here’s one more to try:

Think about story in terms of the Three D’s:  Desires, Decisions, and Dangers.

Desires: What do your characters want and why do they want it? The late Gary Provost, one of the best writing teachers I know, suggests that these desires come from an unmet need from the character’s past.  This unmet need can lead to two types of desires: an outer desire, or goal, and an inner one, which is often discovered as the story unfolds.

Decisions: As a result of these desires, your characters make decisions in pursuit of their goals, decisions which  serve only to deepen their troubles, until they  finally arrive  at the bleakest moment, when all seems lost.

Dangers: Decisions lead to action, or inaction, to misunderstandings, to unpleasant truths. Perhaps to physical danger as well. And when your character finally prevails and is offered the thing he or she most desired, one last decision must be made: to reject or accept it.

Answer these three questions about your character: what does she desire, what decisions arise from it, and what dangers arise from the decisions–and you’ll be well on your way to building a successful story.

Next time: A self editing tip to instantly improve your writing.