Last week, I found a fantastic book on writing: The Anatomy of a Story by John Truby. It’s a keeper (much like King’s On Writing.) I think I first heard about it from an author chat on twitter. It has some of the best analysis of what a story is that I’ve ever read. And I’ve read a lot of books on writing.
The first lines that jump out at me are:
The “story world” doesn’t boil down to “I think, therefore I am” but rather “I want, therefore I am.” Desire in all of its facets is what makes the world go around. It is what propels all conscious, living things and gives them direction. A story tracks what a person wants, what he’ll do to get it and what costs he’ll have to pay along the way.
I’m always ecstatic when a character comes to life in my head. Writing is easy and it feels like I am not writing, just describing the pictures in my head.
I am theorizing that happens because I connect with the character’s desire. In the moment it is real to me, that feeling will come a lot easier.
It makes sense. I mean, a lot of stories are about what character is trying to do, isn’t? Whether that’s to solve a murder or find someone to share their life with. Or, in the case of my MC, find the drug source and keep all hisloved ones safe at the same time.
I am thinking, I need to know my character’s desires, both short-term and long-term. His professional goals (easy! ha! this is the whole story), and a more personal, more emotional desire. To an extent, this is the same (backstory! such bloody, fantastic drama!).
I am not sure if I need other layers. Emotional and/or spiritual desires? I am thinking not. He thinks doesn’t think a love life is possible for him anymore and he’s not really open to it. Family? Hmm. Maybe.
Thing is, I knew almost none of this when I first started writing the novel in progress. I had to backtrack, go forward and back a few times before I figured it out.
How many others know the all the different desires of the character before they start writing?