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The Why

Lesson 7 from: FAST CLASS: Wired for Story: How to Become a Story Genius

Lisa Cron

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Lesson Info

7. The Why

Lesson Info

The Why

the why. And the question is OK, why is what might happen over here in the plot? You have the plot, yet you're going to be developing that. Why is that gonna matter to your protagonist? Because again, story is not about the plot stories about how the plot affects the protagonist. Meaning you have to create the protagonist before you can create a plot that's gonna affect her and enforcer to deal with, to go after what she wants and deal with her miss belief, which is exactly what we're going to be talking about now. Because every protagonist enters the story with two things already fully formed. And that is a driving desire, something she has long wanted. And I don't mean that she starts toe, want what she gets onto page one, but something she has long wanted and miss belief. That is just a long standing that has kept her from getting it, because without a miss believe she would have gotten it on. This wouldn't be a story. It would be something else. Those things happened relatively ear...

ly in her life, so let's take them one by one. The first question is, what does your protagonist enter already wanting now, Sometimes there's local. Well, wait a minute. What's gonna be about is she wants toe to marry. The guy just moved into her dorm room and he's not gonna move into her dorm until the end of chapter two. So how could she want him over here before? Shouldn't even know him yet. Like she's got telepathy or something. No, but what it is, is he then will be the manifestation off what she thinks she wants. You need to know what that is and how that's been driving her from way before. Up until the moment that your story starts. That is what you're looking for. And the reason you need to know this one of the main reasons, anyway, is because what your protagonist wants is what is going to drive her story long agenda. And it's something that writers sometimes completely let go of I'll never forget. As with several several years ago, I was teaching a class at U. C. L. A. And everyone again in that class was in the midst of either a work in progress or was in the third or fourth draft, and I thought, Well, here's an easy question. I better break the ice with an easy question. Will go around the room and I'll ask each person, you know what is? Your protagonist entered this story already wanting, and not one person could answer the question, and several were surprised that it was a question. But the truth is, is that's what drives their agenda. And here's the thing. Not just your protagonist, but every character has a story long agenda that they step onto the page with and scene by scene by scene by scene. They're trying to move that agenda forward. If you don't know what they want, they can't have an agenda. Nobody has an agenda, an agenda, how to get what you want. You know what someone wants? How could they have an agenda if they don't have an agenda? You end up with protagonist or characters who are merely reactive. Something happens, they react to it. Something else happens, they react to it. But there's nothing driving them forward. But knowing what they want is not enough. You also want to know why do they want it? And that means what will getting it mean to them? What will getting it mean to them? What do they think it'll say about them? What do they think it will say to the world about them? No. In other words, it's never about the what it's always about the why why do they want it? Because I can change it entirely. The answer is never what you're protecting us want. They want a $1,000,000? Why? Well, who wouldn't? It is never the answer. The answer is, why do they want the $1,000,000? What did they think that will say about them? Is it well, I really feel like through my entire life nobody's ever listened to me. But they listen to rich people. So if I have a lot of money, they're gonna listen to what I have to say, you know? Or is it those people next door are so mean to me the whole time? If I could get a $1,000,000 Aiken by their house and tear it down, I mean, why do they want it? That is the key question. Now here's the thing. Your protagonist and writers will often go, but my protagonist doesn't know what she wants. How can I write about what she wants. She doesn't know. It's like That's really fine. She doesn't have to know. But you have to know, because how else can you write a story that's gonna force her? Teoh, Get it? You know, it's sort of like It's like, um, I can't tell you how often when you're reading a manuscript and you go forward and the character doesn't know And what I always want to say to the writer is, It's like when you go to a therapist, right and you got a problem and you want to reframe, you're not sure what's going on in your life, and you tell the therapist what the problem is, and then they go, Oh, and now they reframe it to you and you go with that. Yes, that's what I'm after now. How did the therapist figure that out? It can't be mind reading because you didn't know. And let's hope they can't really actually singing to your soul. And they figured it out in some sort of, you know, metaphysical way. It's because you were giving off tells because you were saying things that would clue someone else into things that you didn't know. I can't tell you and this is one of ours. I can't tell you in the course of my career how many memoir manuscript I've read, where I've thought if the writer knew what she was telling me about herself, she would jump off a building because people reveal themselves when they don't think that they are. So you need to know so that you can write a story that then forces your protagonist to see. If someone said to me the other day very smart person said, Here's what story is on one level, you've got the plot. The goal of the plot is to make what is unconscious in the protagonist conscious. And when I say unconscious, I don't mean it in like the, you know, Freud, Inter Union sort of sense collective, unconscious or whatever. I mean, things that have come down through us and that we believe, you know, in our cognitive unconscious, and we just see that is, that's the way the world's. But we're not really thinking about it. The plot is now gonna force your protagonists to really think about it, and it's gonna bring that unconscious forward so they have to deal with it. That is what you're creating now when you create the why Because at the end of the day, is that what she really wants? Because really often stories air about how protagonist enters wanting something, and they go all the way forward to get it, only to realize that's not what I wanted at all. So that is the next question you want to ask. Is it what they really want? And if not, why not? What? What do they really want? Once you know that we have now reached the Deco, we've now reached the key question. We've now reached what your story is about, which is what is the miss belief that's capture protagonist from reaching their goal because we all have goals and some of us like meat them, you know, we actually do that thing, and that's boring. Someone has a goal and goes out and does it. You know, those are the people on Facebook we don't like, because they could just do everything so damn easily. Things are hard. So the question is, what is that miss belief? What is the miss belief that's kept them from getting it now to be very clear, a miss belief is always something about human nature. It's never factual, and miss belief is never something like I thought the world was flat and you are never gonna believe it. It's round. Who knew? You know, or I thought she was my sister and it turns out she's my mother. Oh, it's not things like that. It is. It is something about the way the world works about how we treat each other. This is what we come to story for. We come to story for inside Intel about how to better navigate this mortal coil. When story first originated, it was also had to navigate the mortal coil like physically. But we've got that we've kind of had that taken care for a very long time. And for about the past 150, years, it's been how do we navigate the social world? How do we navigate the world of each other? How do we get what we need without sacrificing too much were stealing too much? That is what we come two story for. I think that most stories are about the same thing and that is the cost of human connection. What is it gonna cost me to connect with someone else. What do I have to show of myself? How do I stay safe? What dough I dio. That's what most stories air about. It's not about the plot. It's about how the plot affects the protagonists.

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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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