John Truby wrote a book called The Anatomy of a Story. I turned to this book, and others, to help me shape my story. It's one thing to have an inspiration and something else to shape that inspiration into a story. In Chapter 2 of Mr. Truby's book, he talks about the premise, the design principle, central theme, and moral choice. After reading the chapter, I took the inspiration of the story and tried to define these four elements (BTW, element is my term. I am not sure what Mr. Truby would call them.) .
By forcing myself through this exercise, I was able to create a direction for my story. In a way, I was writing the persona of my story. Below are my notes from the exercise. I have not changed a thing. I started by writing the element and then taking a quote from the book so I could remember what each element was supposed to do. I will confess, this wasn't easy to do. Being forced to express my ideas in such a confining, yet, abstract way was a challenge.
- Premise -> “is concrete, it’s what actually happens.”
- A young woman learns, that by design, she has been gifted with the ability to save a way of life and she must decide how she will proceed.
- Designing principle -> “is abstract, it is the deeper process going on in the story, told in an original way.”
- A young woman with special abilities finds herself in the middle of a war of good intentions and must recognize how she can help resolve the war without becoming the very thing she is fighting against.
- Central Theme -> “A theme should be a statement that expresses a universal message.” “… a message that comes through in your book.”
- Enabling free will to achieve balance.
- Moral Choice -> “… the final moral choice you give to the hero.” “Make the options as equal as possible, with one seeming only slightly better than the other.”
- The main character must decide whether her own free will should take precedence over the free will of others. Does the needs of many outweigh the needs of the few in all situations?
As I read these elements again, I can see that the story strayed a little but I kept these four elements handy as I made decisions as to what would happen next. Would I do it again? Yes. Do I want to? No. It isn't easy but it was worth the struggle.