What's the Point of your Story?
The next thing we wanna ask on these fundamental questions is, okay, what the point of the particular story that you wanna tell? And I like to use this terminology rather than what's the theme? Or what's your message? I like to, I like what's the point. Because that's the thing we say to each other all day long. So if I'm listening to, oh say, my husband. Going on and on about something. And I don't have time (laughing), right? What I'll say is, what's the point? What's your point? What are you getting at? You know, because you just, like just get to the point. Or if you're ever, we've all been in this situation where you're at a party and you're cornered by someone. Sometimes it's like a relative. And they're talking about, you know, their hip replacement or something. And, not that there's anything wrong with that. It's a profoundly important thing for someone. But you're, for you, you're like, why should I care? What's the point? That's what you always want is why are you telling me...
this? What's the point? So let's start by asking that about our own stories. And to figure out what are you trying to say? What are you trying to say about the world? What is this story, what is your argument that this story is going to carry forward into the world? And if you think about any book that you've loved, it has a point. It has a, a very powerful point. And so, that's the first thing we're gonna, we're gonna ask. The thing is that human beings are designed to receive information in this way. To get the point across in this way from the time they're, we're in kindergarten. And all of the things, you know like, if you think about the fairy tales that we tell, or the picture books that we read to kids, or these very simple stories that we begin to share when we're very little humans, it's all because we're trying to teach something about being a moral human being. Or being a good person. Or being, you know, all the, all the big ideas about being true to yourself. Those, you know, we start when we're really little doing that. But it doesn't ever end. That's why we love to read. We get to learn what it's like to be in a relationship with other human beings. And it's, it's, a profoundly important and impactful thing that we're doing. So I'm urging you not to take it lightly. No matter what your story is. Even if your story is light. If it's meant to be entertaining. Or, you know, there's that term, beach novel. Just a, you know, somebody's gonna lay down on the sand and read this thing in three hours. And it's not gonna stay with them. It's not gonna change their life. Well, it is in that minute. It is in that time. It's gonna let them escape from their problems and their world. It's gonna let them be in another universe. There's no story that's not important. And, so we really wanna get at what are you trying to say? No matter what you're writing. What are you trying to say? So some examples of points, these all end up sounding like bumper stickers. So, I wanna urge you that if you're doing this in your workbook at home, that having a cliche is fine. It's completely fine to start with a cliche. So some of those cliches might be, who you are is more important than what you are. That's a good one. You could write a lot of stories about that. Another one would be, 'tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. There are about a million books that have been written with that point. You know, what's your point? Perhaps something like, absolute power corrupts absolutely. So don't be afraid to start with these very cliche level ideas about what your point is. You'll hear me today talk a lot about the iterative nature of writing. So what that means is writing is not linear. And it's very confusing because we read in a very linear fashion. You open a book. You turn the page. You move forward. You know, dot, dot, dot, dot. It's very chronological. It's very steady. It's very linear. But writing is not linear. And that's a huge mistake people make. And that's what I was talking about before, when you leap in and you start writing forward. And you just start cranking this story out. You're making the mistake of thinking that creativity happens in the same way that the consuming of that story happens. That the development of it happens in that same linear way. It doesn't. Writing is very iterative. It's very circular. So I talk a lot about going around, and returning to things again and again and again. And this is a perfect example, you start with a cliche. Then a few exercises down you might come back to this point. And say, oh wait, it's actually not that. It's this. And you might tweak it a little. You might expand it a little. You might deepen it a little. And it's not gonna end up as a cliche. It's gonna end up as a very personal, very particular point that you're trying to make. So if you begin with a cliche, I think that's great. Have it be a bumper sticker. Have it be a thing that sounds ridiculous. I think the simplicity of this step sometimes stops people because they think, well that's dumb. 'Til better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. Like, there have been a million stories about that. Why should I write one? So then you get into that doubt. Like, the last three books I read were that. We don't need another one. Well, yeah we do. We do. We need your story. We need all the stories. We need these same messages over and over and over again. It's why people love books. It's why we revere writers who speak to us is because we need these things. So don't be alarmed if your point starts out sounding like a cliche. So, since it's a bumper sticker, I say just talk 10 minutes. Just write it down. Don't overthink this. You can't really get it wrong. Just get in the wheelhouse of the bumper sticker that you wanna write about. And then later you can stop and think, okay, how can I make this better? So is there anyone in the audience here who wants to share what their bumper sticker idea for their story is? Any, any, any takers? Oh, it's a quiet bunch here today. Okay (laughing).
I'll share. You get to choose who you want to be. Don't let the world decide for you.
Perfect. Perfect. Can anybody off the top of their heads think about another story they know that, that has that point? You wanna say it one more time so we can get it in our heads.
You get to choose who you want to be. Don't let the world decide for you.
Any thoughts on any books, movies, stories you've read or heard that get at that? I'm thinking pretty much everything. Like, Wonder Woman comes to mind of a recent movie. I mean, anything could be that really. In some ways Harry Potter. Every, every mistaken identity. Every royal heir story. I'm thinking of the King's Speech. The movie the King's Speech. I mean there's just every, there's so many stories that could be that way. So does that give you comfort? Or does it, does it upset you when you think, yeah every story?
It gives me comfort because, you know, there's always new readers. There's always new people looking for different stories. We're, you know, there's, there's always gonna be somebody looking for these stories. And.
Yeah. Somebody won't necessarily go back and watch the King's Speech. But they'll go back and watch Wonder Woman.
Yeah. So true. Good. Well thank you for sharing that.