Monday, November 16, 2009

The Story You Want to Tell

What is the story you want to tell?

I was thinking about this question the other day as I considered my next writing project and realized that this single question, is probably the most important question any writer can ask theirselves.

Normally, I get an idea, sketch out some characters, and begin writing. I seriously have no clue about the story I want to tell. I just have all these jumbled thoughts dancing around in my head and try to form them into a coherent form as my fingers quick-step across the keyboard.

This pretty much works for me.

As we all know, there are various blogs out there with certain questions we should ask ourselves during the writing process. Those are some great questions, I've written about them before, and am too dang lazy right here/now to link to them. Sorry, I'm typing this post early on a Saturday morning when I should be in bed, but . . . ahhh, my lovely cocker spaniel Jesse (one half of the dynamic cocker spaniel duo known as Jesse and James) doesn't realize it's the weekend and doesn't need to be walked at 6:30 AM!

Anyhow, I really think (better late than never), the main, most important, most significant question of all is: What is the story you want to tell?

With one project, I wanted to strip away the stereotypes of society and show the true nature of a group of people, rather than the inaccurate stereotypical media portrayal of a group of people.

I did just that, in no uncertain terms. That was what I was thinking about yesterday when the question occurred to me.

I also realized, while the story I told was, well, uh, brilliant . . . there were more stories still to tell, more avenues to explore along the same lines as that project, though perhaps not written in the same style of that project.

So, as I sit down to consider what's next in what will be a very lengthy writing career, the first and foremost question I'm asking myself - before characters, setting, anything - is: what is the story I want to tell with this particular project?

How about you? Do you ask yourself this question before you even begin the brain-storming for a project? Before the characters spring to life in your mind and on paper? Do you consider this question at all?


Jody Hedlund said...

That is an EXCELLENT question to ask before starting the writing. It forces us to probe to the deeper issues that we want our readers to take away and mull over long after they close the cover on our book!

ElanaJ said...

Very nice question. I admit, I don't ask myself this. I usually have characters first and then I have to ask them what I should tell. Sometimes that works. And sometimes it doesn't. Will have to stew some more...

Scott said...

Jody - there are so many questions to ask, but this one really is the most important one . . . I think.

Elana - I don't think I've ever asked myself this question either. Like you, I normally start with characters, perhaps a general idea, and then just wing it. This has worked so far, but I'm always willing to experiment a bit.


Marybeth Poppins said...

I asked myself this with the first one...but the second one formed as it went along.

Oddly the second is a much better story than the first. :)I wonder if that means anything.

scott g.f.bailey said...

I get an image, sort of, of the ending of the story and work my way backwards to see what could have brought that moment about. So I never ask myself what story I want to tell; the stories sort of find me.

Scott said...

Marybeth and Scott - I've never asked myself this question with any of my prior writing projects. I was just doing a lot of thinking about my writing last week, and this question popped into my head. Hate it when that happens. I really think this is one of the most important questions we can ask ourselves, but this question can also be changed to "is this the story i wanted to tell" after we've finished the project. It's kind of a flexible question that can be asked at various points throughout the writing process.