How do you start your story?



With this, at 6:30 am, my 3-year old daughter announced it was STORY TIME, time for daddy and daughter to invent a story.

At 6:30 in the morning, my instincts would have been, “Hi I’m Kermit, um I’m a frog” but she had great instincts. She knew the first rule:

What surprises or upsets the main character? What puts the character in a new situation?

“How about Kermit is afraid of the thunder?”

All this before coffee!

A few days later, I looked at old notes, and remembered my favorite next question, for deep in the story:

“Are you (the character, Kermit, et al), strong enough to change yourself to deal with the new situation?

In tragedies from Macbeth to “Brokeback Mountain”, the answer is no. In happy stories, the answer is yes, yes, yes (the enemy vanquished, the girl and the boy are united, the music swells, everyone leaves happy.) This is the personal question I now ask when developing a story.

When writing a story, I look to see how much I can add where the character has to find strength to change themselves.

For Kermit, I made a list.

Kermit, are you strong enough to:

  • Help everyone else get away from the storm?
  • Give your last food for Miss Piggy, though she’s driving you crazy?
  • Run across a stormy field to retrieve something: a necessity, a child, an enemy, something imperative?
  • Make friends with that certain someone you ostracized, in their time of need, in this storm?
  • Are you strong enough to say “you’re safe” to the person you hate the most?
Shakespeare’s The Tempest starts right from the storm, too. “Boatswain! Speak to the mariners or we run ourselves aground!”
There’s another kind of story and another storm: The storm that comes later, after we’ve gotten to know the characters. This is The Wizard of Oz.

In this case, it’s about letting us know the characters and the world before we upset their world. The storm comes some 22 minutes in and then the action starts.

Thanks for joining us! What are your stories? Tell us!