Building A Story – Mentoring From A Pro

Building A Story

A professional writer offers guidance.

Building a story is not like building a house. There are no codes.

Every writer comes with their own bag of tricks for fleshing out story. While I would venture to say that while there is some natural overlap, no two bags are going to be the same.

One of the places I like to begin development is through character. Whether or not you are writing a piece of commercial fiction or screenplay, your personal memoir, or a business book, character is the driving force behind your manuscript. Building a story is almost always about someone.

Character is a dynamic entity. Interesting personalities are rarely vague. There are critical elements that enhance a one dimensional figure into a dynamic character that can sustain an entire book.

My first strategy is to ask, what do we know about this person?

It’s amazing what we take for granted in describing a person. Usually though, we know a basic defining characteristic of that lead character. He’s a Dad but he’s also a science teacher. She’s a cheerleader but she’s caught between two men. They are a US Navy Seal but he has a family back home.

Even basic descriptions allow a ghostwriter to narrow down the range of possibilities. No one is as basic as those descriptions. Dad and science teacher doesn’t seed a dynamic element.

There are other shades we need to cast on those characters and those come in brainstorming.

To get there, next, I go the other direction… what do we not know about this person?

Is our main character just a Dad and science teacher as we assumed? Or does he go to sleep each night pondering what might have been? Does your cheerleader harbor a secret life?

A US Navy Seal at the end of his tour is an entirely different character than one just earning his stripes. Take that a step further, you can portray him as a soldier deciding whether to re-enlist for another tour. Now he is caught between obligations and loves: family and country.

The difference between the first character assumption and the second might seem like a small one, but in truth they are enormous. That difference is the one between memorable and forgettable.

That Dad who pines for what he missed is Walter White from Breaking Bad. Our cheerleader with a secret is none other than Laura Palmer from Twin Peaks. That Navy Seal? Chris Kyle from American Sniper.

If you’ve seen any one of those stories, the driving characters don’t need further elaboration.

The question of what we know and don’t know is only a basic development tool. You can see though, how answering even the basic question opens doors wide for crafting memorable characters and building a story.

Effective ghostwriting is about evolving that character concept beyond assumption.

If you’re reading this article and would like my professional input, don’t hesitate to contact me. Whether you’re stuck in the process or need an editorial set of eyes on your manuscript, I can help you reach your writing goals.

 

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Erick Mertz is a Portland, Oregon based freelance writer. He works as an assignment ghostwriter for clients in fiction, non-fiction and screenwriting. He lives in Woodstock with his wife, Lisa, his dog Boris and two cats.

Erick MertzBuilding A Story – Mentoring From A Pro

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