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All Stories Begin in Medias Res

Lesson 4 from: FAST CLASS: Wired for Story: How to Become a Story Genius

Lisa Cron

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Lesson Info

4. All Stories Begin in Medias Res

Lesson Info

All Stories Begin in Medias Res

the place where the process starts in creating a novel and the place where a novel starts, meaning you're gonna pick it up and read it. Page one are two completely different things. All novels begin really all stories, but we're talking about novels here. All novels begin and Medias Rest and Medias Rest is Latin for in the middle of the thing, the thing being the story. So I would be doing this all the way through. So if N Medias rest is this, my arm is now. And media Stress Page One of your novel begins the second half of your story because there's a ton of stuff you need to know before you actually have a story. If it's stories about how someone solves the problem, how can they solve a problem that hasn't yet been created? If a story is about how somebody comes in wanting something they wanted for a very long time, how can you start on page one? Because you don't know what that is. If the plot is gonna force them to go after a miss belief that has guided their life from that moment f...

orward, how can you start on page one if you haven't created that. And if by going through that your protagonist is probably on this face it, most of us do created part of the problem they're not gonna have to solve here. How can you start on page one if you don't have any of that? And the answer is you can't You can't One of the reasons I think that we that we believe that we want to start on page one really again has to do with our experience because that's writers where rebels, right writers are rebels. We want to change the world, have got something to say. We want to get in people's heads so they'll see things differently. But there's one way in which we writers are very, very obedient and very reverent even. And that is when we read a book and you know what it's like when you read a book, you pick up the book, you open it up, you start very obediently on page one and then you read forward in, you know, in sequential order until you get to the end. I know that there are times when you know there's something that either really exciting are really like terrifying is gonna happen. And you think I kind of just have to have some clues to what's gonna happen in my heart's gonna pound out of my chest So you kind of skin for you, Okay? And then you go back and you do very obediently read forward. The problem is, is that while we read a novel in linear order, that is not how we write a novel novel is not written, not a linear process by any stretch. And so what we're gonna talk about right now are the steps were going to go through, but also about that first half. Because it's something that writers again, it's really hard. Is was, will talk. But it's really hard to unlearn something that you have learned early in life and what we tend to have learned that we start on page one and we go forward. If your pants her meaning somebody who writes by the seat of your pants, you get an idea, you start on page one. You right, forward If you're a plotter, OK? You know, you need to know something. You get a story structure book, you're still going to start on page one and now you've got a plot and the process doesn't begin their it begins much before And the other problem besides the fact that you know, we've all heard that that that's the way to write what we really need to dig into is something that's often referred to as backstory and back story often can have a negative connotation out there in the writing world. Don't give us a lot of back story. Use it sparingly. It just means don't do it poorly because, as we're going to discuss now, back story is the most fundamental layer of the novel that you're writing, and it is laced into every single page you write. So first, let's talk about the steps that we're going to go through Here is what we're going to do. We're going to start with the what if and again If this is n medias rests the what if straddles that it begins with the first blush of an idea that you've got You want to go forward but we're gonna ask, Okay, but why is that gonna matter? What is this story going to be once we do that, Our next step and it pays not to think of these necessarily as steps, but is layers that you're going to be digging into. Each step gives you just enough information that you can start then digging into into into the next layer and the next layer in the next layer. So we're gonna start with the what if and then we're gonna ask the who who should? Protagonists two story isn't as you can see, if this is n medias rest like right here, we're going backwards. So over here we're gonna ask who's your protagonist before your novel starts. Once we know that, we're gonna goto why? And that goes toe, why is what you're thinking might happen that they would have a plot yet, But you've got a basic idea. Why is what's gonna happen in the plot? Why is that gonna matter to your protagonist? What are they gonna enter wanting? What does that miss belief gonna bay once we know that we need to dig even deeper because the goal is to go from the general from the abstract from the conceptual down to the very, very, very specific and that's gonna take it standing to the world for you. And that is, to be very clear, your protagonists story specific worldview. And when we do that, we're gonna go all the way back to what I call their origin seen. And that is that moment we were talking about a minute ago in the prior lesson. Well, about when that miss belief actually came into being, we're going right. That scene that's as far back as we have to go Now, Now we're going to start going forward, and then we're going to talk about the turning point scenes, In other words, events in your protagonists life in which that miss belief was challenged when they might have doubled down on it when they might have picked up supporting miss beliefs. That then bring us story specifically up until this end. Medias rest. And what tends to happen is by that time, your plot has already begun to auto populate. As we'll see in a minute. Once we've done that, we're gonna come up and we're gonna be right here. We're right here now, right here. And this is in media stress. But as opposed to going to page one, we're then going to talk about your plot problem. What is that story question plot problem that's gonna go forward because a story is to be very clear, a story is about one problem that grows, escalates and complicates from beginning to instantly started way before. But we're talking about from page one. It's gonna grow escalating complicate from beginning to end. And you've got to be sure you have a problem that's capable of doing that. Once we've done that, then we're gonna We're right here. And now we're going to talk about where does your novel open? What is that opening scene? Where is it gonna begin? And then what? You need to get into that opening scene, What the opening scene actually does. We're gonna bust quite if you miss. When we get to this point, once we've done that, now we're gonna go to come over here so I can leap by leap over there, only about a frame. Okay, Now I can leave. Then we're gonna leap to the ultimate ah ha moment, which is what you've been building toward all the way through. Because scene by scene, by scene by scene, your protagonist miss belief is gonna be challenged. The ultimate Ah ha. Moments is the moment where suddenly your protagonist is going to see their miss belief for what it is wrong. And so we're going to talk about We're not wrong. I admit there are novels where the whole point is that no matter how bad it is, they never see it. But this is still this moment we expected to happen and it doesn't. So we're gonna talk about the ultimate ah ha moment. At that point now you're gonna have the basis of everything that you're going to be able to write going forward along with a Method two when you hit places where you're not really sure, still be pinging into the past because you will be going into backstory and creating backstory all the way through in draft after draft after draft. And that's we're gonna talk about in the where to go from here. So I would just leave you. You'll have a method by which you can go forward. But let's talk a little bit because, as you can see, ah, lot of these deal with backstory, do with creating the story that you're going to be creating Back story is the most fundamental layer of the story that you are going to be creating. Because backstory is the source off all story logic. It is what not only creates the lens through which your protagonist sees everything, once they step onto the page, the meaning that they read into it. But it also creates the balls in play and the things that your protagonist is going to be dealing with. Once they get to Page one, this will be laced in to every single page that you write. In fact, when we talked about how does the writer create that sense of reality, you feel like you're walking around in. This is how they do it. That's exactly how they do it. Because your story is not about what your protagonist does. We don't come for the what we come for. The why and the answer to why anybody does. Anything ever always lies in the past. When you shove them on the page, all of that has happened. And if you develop this as I say, the plot begins toe auto populate because this is how we worked as as humans, in terms of how we process information with lens through which we we evaluate everything. It's funny. I had a I had a client about a year ago. Who wrote me an email, she said, Oh my gosh, I was just reading a review of a nonfiction book in The New York Times. It's called, I think was called Why Time Flies, she said. And they pulled out a quote. That's exactly what you're always talking about in the quote was this. Neuroscientists interpret the brain as a time machine whose core mechanism is to collect past memories in order to predict the future. That is what we dio. If you shove a protagonist onto the page without this lens, what do they have to predict the future based on nothing. What future? I don't know. What do they want? I don't know. This is the most fundamental element of life, and it is the most fundamental element of story.

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Marianthi Tzanakakis
 

I was introduced to writing tools and techniques, I didn't know existed. Now I feel I have a much better grasp in what it takes to write a truly great novel.

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