A good story cannot be denied. Like falling in love, it's irresistible. It touches your heart before it reaches your head. You're drawn in whether you want to be or not. And you're not asking yourself, "Is it good?" or "Is it real?" because you're part of the story, living and feeling it with the characters. That's the kind of story you'll learn to write in The Complete Story. The craft and techniques you'll learn are those used by all great writers.
Fine. But how does it work?
A Touch of Craft
Here's an example that will give you a feel for the most critical story ingredient of them all. It's the single force that will turn any idea into a dramatic story every time. Without it no story, no matter how beautifully written, can succeed. I can do this in a couple of ways. I can give you a definition, a concept, a model. But, stories aren't ideas. They're not concepts or definitions. They're experience. So, rather than tell you how a story works, I'm going to show you-show you by giving you a little story to see how much of an experience I can cause you to have. Here's the story:
My wife and I have a friend named Larry who just went through a horrendous divorce. My wife ran into him at the mall. He looked terrible-sad and despondent. He sounded even worse than he looked, so she invited him over for dinner to try to cheer him up.
Larry's an old friend, so we know what he likes. My wife cooked his favorite food and I bought a bottle of his favorite scotch. We had a nice dinner and let Larry know we would be there for him whenever he needed us. He could call anytime night or day. No matter what, we would be there to help him through this. Larry felt better. We felt better. He went home happy. We went to bed happy. It was a great night, all around, for everybody. That's the end of the story.
How was it? Moving? Compelling? Dramatic? Did you identify? Were you gripped? Did you have the kind of experience you want from a story?
The answer, of course, is NO. You did not have an experience. You did not connect. You did not identify. You could not. The reason you could not was: I purposely gave you a dead story. So, the effect was boredom and maybe irritation. The cause was a dead story. I presented you with an experience that left you cold, with a mistake. Why? Because mistakes are what we start with.
We make mistakes, constantly. First drafts are loaded with them. Hemingway said, "The first draft is shit." If Hemingway's first drafts were shit, you shouldn't be expecting any better from yourself. Expecting too much is the surest way to get discouraged and blocked. The other reason I started with a mistake is: We learn more from our mistakes than our successes-not from the mistakes themselves, but from fixing them. Experiencing perfect writing will not teach you what you need to know. If it did, all you would have to do is read great writers and you'd be a great writer. I know people who read great literature all the time but can't write worth a damn.
Fine. So where do we go from here? Well, if I'm right, if I know what I'm doing, I should be able to show you how to turn this mistake into an involving story. But, before I do, consider...
What's Needed to MAKE IT HAPPEN.