Under the Hood

I think I’ve answered the question that began these blogs days ago – what is a story? Somewhere in there is an answer. And I think I’ve addressed why do we tell stories? So, it is time to move on.

Time to lift the hood and find out what is inside a story. If we’re going to keep making these widgets then we better have a good idea what the components are, especially the essential components. Automobiles, they’re all basically the same to a point – four tires, couple of axels, drive shaft, engine, pistons, steering wheel, windshield, seats, doors, etc. You get the picture. If our widgets were automobiles then we would have to make something that someone could drive to the store to buy a bottle of milk (hmmm … Milk doesn’t come in bottles much anymore. There’s a squirrel I could chase!). So our widgets have to contain certain elements in order to be considered a story. We better make sure we know what those are before we begin adding the embellishments like power steering, stereo, sun roof and GPS system. First we gotta be able to get to the store.

So, a peak under the hood reveals:

  • Characters.            All of our stories have people (or animals or robots or machines or widgets or whatever pretending to be people).
  • Locations.             All of our stories seem to take place somewhere, in some location, whether it’s natural, mythical, fantastical, etc., it’s a location.
  • Behavior.             All of our characters seem to be doing something, engaged in some actions or activities. They all seem to be trying to achieve some goal, usually individually, but sometimes collectively.
  • Dialogue.             And these characters talk a lot. They seem to try to express themselves to each other and sometimes to themselves in an effort to achieve that goal.

With these four elements, I think we can get to the store and back. It may not be an exciting or eventful ride, but we can take the journey. Now we have a widget that will work. And now that the car is up and running we can consider the embellishments, the add-ons, the accessories that will give our widget some class, some power, comfort and desirability.

In a future blog we’ll take the widget back into the shop for some fine-tuning and …

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