on writing

Story 101, Ep. IV: Events, Embryos, Essentials

The original source of these ideas remains sketchy in my memories; perhaps this bit was a talk on divine artistry by Tim Keller. But if your story holds most or all of these elements, I could almost guarantee it automatically rocks. These are the seeds of existence–and the stuff that addicts us to your narrative world.

  • a birth: an actual birth, a beginning of a dream, a newness
  • a death: a real death of someone we love or someone we have just met or someone who affects someone we love—because life is fragile, is it not? And ends are as vast in meaning as beginnings.
  • a marriage: a great love, a union against all odds, the meeting of souls in an otherwise chaotic realm that is Real Life–because be it, as it is, fraught with meaning, it is also chaotic, and love is a time-space-and-spirit miracle.
  • a redemption*: a making of peace, a cycle back to the beginning of the events and a renewing of what was once new and went wrong, a happy ending (*note: a tragedy will never come round to this, but we sit, reading, waiting, wishing for what could have been, and in this way, redemption is alluded to. I think of Nick’s green light at the end of Gatsby: a longing for a dream that never delivered.)

These are like the meat-and-potatoes of your story. If you avoid these in the name of “not getting too heavy,” you lose what may be called “Stakes.” What are the consequences of Ivy not retrieving that medicine in time? Oh gosh darn it, she gets a big headache is not nearly as compelling as then her true love dies. 

Modern and postmodern tales toy with these elements in order to pose questions against our narrative expectations. I recall my sister’s fascination with Hitchhiker’s Guide and the detritus of events that made her laugh (or cry) in their brutal nonsensicality. But the stories that inspire and incline earth-folk to greatness–at least, so I would argue–echo the Monomyth structure and involve each of these elements, literally or metaphorically.

On another note, I’ve also been toying with Dan Harmon’s Plot Embryo method (see Rachael Stephen’s practical application of it here and Harmon’s succinct explanation here)—and loving it.

Keep your eyes open for Episode V (concerning bullets 6. and 7.)!

❤ , dori.png

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