Friday, March 24, 2017

The core problem

I used to listen to a radio call-in show where the host gave advice to listeners, Dear-Abby style. I think now that what drew me to the show was that each call was the setup for a story, the jumping-off point for novelistic daydreams.

Stories are built around problems and conflicts. A request for advice is a brief statement of a problem or dilemma. A writer can take such situations and, by following branching paths of what-ifs, build a whole world that is very different from that of the person who asked the original question.

I don't recall ever using an actual advice call as the basis for a story I've written, but I learned a lot about succinctly stating problems, about identifying key choices. If your protagonist had to boil down his or her problem into a simple statement seeking advice from a mentor, what would he or she say?

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