Friday, July 22, 2011

What's this post about?

I’m halfway along my month-long course through WriterU on Yahoo! groups. The course is called “Laws of Motion: Plotting the Compelling Story” and the instructor is Laura Baker.

Maybe I really am a character in somebody else’s story. If stories are about characters going through struggles and learning something, I sure am struggling, so the learning part must be around the corner!

I’m having trouble with describing Neal’s basic nature, and with pinning down what my story is about (and what it’s *really* about, Laura makes a distinction).

One of the reasons it’s hard is that I’m not sure what aspects of someone’s personality make up their basic nature. To me, at this point in my WIP’s development, at the start of it all Neal *wants* a better life but feels helpless to go after it. He says it’s because life conspires to keep him in the barrio, but secretly he’s afraid that he’s really just a gangbanger at heart, nothing more.

I could say that my story is about discovering that while none of us is perfect, we all deserve a life worth living. Or, as Neal puts it, “Live like you mean it.” Or maybe the story’s about:
  • The way we grew up doesn’t have to pigeonhole us for our entire lives (or, as Lola puts it, “You are more than where you came from”)
  • Finding inner strength when we think we’re least able to find it.
  • The blooms of friendship and love make their thorns worthwhile.
See, most stories are “about” more than one thing. That’s why reading is so wonderful. I think my story Street Glass is about certain things, but readers may think it’s about other things – and they’d be right. Good stories are about lots of things, minor and major.

Laura says that your story is about what your main characters has to *do*, his struggle. What it’s *really* about is the personal discovery that character makes because of the struggle. I think I’ve got that right.

So, my WIP could be about a young man (if you hear a sound at this point, it’s Neal. He always laughs when I refer to him as a “young man”) struggling with wanting a better life but feeling that fate has decreed he can never be anything but a street thug.

And the story could *really* be about any of those things listed above.

This is why some people pay fat bucks for an editor: personalized attention, narrow focus on *your* story. *sigh* I miss the days when somebody in the biz would spot potential in a writer and help them develop that into a successful first novel. It just figures that that blew over before I got serious about being published.

Am I gonna give up? No. Why not? Because Neal has important things to say, and I’m the only one who can help him with that. I’m glad he picked me J

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