Tag Archive: Theme

Character Need: Psychological + Moral

I’ve been reading writing craft books for almost two decades, and it’s gotten to the point where most of them don’t tell me anything I don’t already know. But recently I had a creative crisis that prompted me to look hard for new information, and after a couple misses I came across THE ANATOMY OF STORY by John Truby. I highly recommend you check it out. I’m not going to regurgitate the book’s content here; I’m simply going to highlight a small tidbit I found in Chapter 3 that has completely changed how I approach developing a protagonist’s journey…

Character Need-PsychologicalMoral

Early on in my career, I learned that the hero’s WANT and NEED are two separate things and integral to the Character Arc. Let’s refresh…

WANT = What the hero desires and believes will make them happy. WANT is the motivation behind the hero’s GOAL.

FLAW (personal characteristic) + LIE (personal belief) = What prevents the hero from achieving their GOAL.

NEED = What will actually make the hero happy. The NEED overcomes the hero’s FLAW and counters the LIE they’ve believed up until the Climax of the story. Recognizing this need is what prompts the hero to change; acting on this need is what allows the hero to triumph in the end (which may or may not involve achieving the original GOAL).

Note: The above applies to stories with a positive character arc rather than a negative character arc. Also, an arc period. Some people don’t think having the hero change is a necessary part of a story. I do simply because I prefer stories where the hero changes and am disappointed with stories where the hero doesn’t change. But I recognize that this is my opinion and not the law.

Now back to this Character Need thing…

Notice the use of the word “personal” in the definitions above. Most students of writing craft learn that the hero’s NEED is something deeply personal that affects the hero. Truby calls this a “psychological need.” However, he also identifies another type of need: moral.

“In average stories, the hero only has a psychological need [that] involves overcoming a serious flaw which is hurting nobody but the hero. In better stories, the hero has a moral need in addition to the psychological need… [which is] hurting others.” — John Truby, The Anatomy of Story, pg 41.

So, if there are two types of NEED, there are two types of character FLAWS: psychological and moral. Sometimes a psychological flaw (such as alcoholism) has an obvious moral flaw (hurting the ones you love) attached to it, but not always. Take a psychological flaw like low self-esteem. How does that flaw hurt others? It’s easy to brainstorm ways, but up until now, this is not something I’d ever made a point of doing. And I realize this was a missed opportunity to: 1) add more poignant conflict to the protagonist’s relationships; 2) create deeper stakes; and, most importantly, 3) perfectly intertwine Character Arc and Theme.

In my post The Controlling Idea – Not Your English Teacher’s Theme, I talk about how a story’s Theme always revolves around a human value, and when we test values we are debating morals. But before coming across this concept of a hero’s “moral need” I had developed Character Arc and Theme separately. I knew each was affected by the other, but my process was more like putting two things side-by-side and trying to make them complement each other. Now I approach Character Arc and Theme as puzzle pieces that fit together and develop them in tandem.

This was such a lightbulb moment for me, and made my WIP’s character revelation scene finally click into place. I’ve been playing with the character arc for months. It’s always been connected to the theme, and there was a moral flaw in there somewhere too, but before I clearly identified the moral need, I hadn’t been able to really focus my heroine’s character change into something powerful. Now I think I have.

In conclusion, the tiniest writing tips can be just what you need for a story breakthrough.

PS – Are you wondering why Dustin Hoffman from the movie Tootsie is in the title card? Well, because his character is a perfect example of psychological and moral need working together, as John Truby discusses in THE ANATOMY OF STORY.


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3 Things That Make A Story Worth Writing

Failed Writing Projects

Failed Writing Projects

I’ve had many false starts on my writing journey – stories that started strong and got lost in the middle, stories that fell flat and forgettable at the end, stories that had a debilitatingly weak character arc. I found ways to address all those problems, but in the process still wasted a lot of time. Since my theme for 2015 is “Be More Productive!” I’m aiming to avoid these false starts and less-than-stellar stories. So I took a good hard look at what makes a story worthy of being written and decided it comes down to these three things…

1. The Hook

Why would anyone read this? No, seriously, think about it. The notion that just because a writer is compelled to write something means a reader will be compelled to read it is, frankly, flawed. Humans can and do mistake self-interest for a good story. Ever hear someone pitch their unremarkable life like it’ll be the next bestseller? Yeah, that. It’s easy to spot when you’re the audience, but harder when you’re the writer. After all, this novel is your baby! But do your best to get out of your own head and image you’re a stranger browsing books. Would you select your book out of the hundreds on the shelf or thousands in Amazon’s catalogue? Why?

That “why” is the hook, and it comes down to a question. Every genre has its own base question to answer:

Coming-of-age Will the protagonist grow up and overcome their flaws?
Romance Will the hero find love?
Mystery Who committed the crime?
Horror Who will survive and how will they beat the monster?
Crime Will the hero defeat the bad guys and bring them to justice?

Now the trick is to put an original spin on the base question. But note that the question must be there first. If you’re not sure why someone would read your book, ask what the reader would want to find out from the story. That’s the hook. People are drawn to stories that have a compelling question to answer.

2. The Theme

Otherwise known as, “What the #%*$ is the point of this story?!” Notice I did not ask, “What is this story about?” I asked, “What is the point?” Basically, if you don’t have a point to make, why are you telling this story? It can be as universal as, “Love flourishes when you let go of insecurity.” Or as tragic as, “Crime pays when cops are corrupt.”

Having a point to prove doesn’t mean being preachy, it just means you the writer have something insightful to share about human nature. This is the heart of every good story and is often called “The Theme.”

For more on theme, check out these posts on finding your theme and using theme (aka the controlling idea) to strengthen your story.

3. The End

I’ve waxed poetic about endings before, but Act III truly makes or breaks a story. I’ve blogged about how to make endings right and how to make them unforgettable, but when it comes down to it, the most important thing an ending does is answer the hook question and prove the point of the theme. Bam! It’s a beautiful thing! But if you don’t have that ending, well, you might spend months or years writing and trying to find it and never quite succeeding. And that is a horrible thing!


What do these three things look like when you put them together? To break it down, let’s examine the elements of The Hunger Games:

  1. HOOK: Will Katniss win the deadly Hunger Games?

  2. THEME: Freedom from the Capitol is attainable when someone stands up to them.

  3. END: Katniss not only wins the Hunger Games, she shows everyone in Panem that it’s possible to beat the Capitol when she outsmarts them into letting both her and Peeta win The Games, which gives the whole country the confidence to stand up to their dictator and start a revolution!

Now that is a story worth writing!

When I look back at my failed writing projects, they were all missing one or more of these elements. I won’t make that mistake again. So from this moment on, I vow to have The Hook, The Theme and The End in place before I even start outlining. Onward and upwards in 2015!


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Moody Musings: Shopping My Novel. Again.

Isolated on white empty, half and full water glassesI feel a little down this week, or maybe I’m just being reflective. Perhaps it’s because the holidays are right around the corner, or because I’ve had a crappy few years filled with injury after injury. Being sidelined on my couch is good for writing but not so hot for the rest of my life. I know I’ll snap out of it. I always do.

Consequently, I’ve been thinking a lot about writing and concluded that it’s all about story. I know this is no great revelation and maybe it’s not so much a conclusion as an appreciation. As a writer I think about this all the time, whether I’m watching something on television, film, or reading a book. Stories fascinate me, like when you see something for the first time: your newborn baby, the Grand Canyon, a hummingbird… the awe, the wonderment, the thrill. I admire the imaginative minds that draw me into the story in the simplest of ways. How the writer found a story in an everyday situation and grabbed my emotions and tangled them into a knot and then either blew them up or slowly dragged me back to reality and sanity.

I saw two movies in the last several days: St. Vincent and Interstellar and realized that love is the theme I enjoy the most. Not necessarily a romance, but a love story. In St. Vincent it’s the love between a young boy and a cranky old guy next door who teaches him about life. I actually sobbed out loud at the end. Twice. In Interstellar it’s the love of a father and daughter. And I’m a little ticked off at writer and director Christopher Nolan, because he stole his theme from my first project as stated by one of my characters…

                 “There are fundamental forces of physics that bind the universe: electromagnetism, nuclear interactions, and gravity. But what binds us? Love. Love is powerful in small spaces, yet has profound effect on distance. Love defies time, outlasting both its source and its object. Love is faster than light, for light requires time in order to travel through space. But love reaches its object instantaneously. Love journeys forever into infinity.”

I’ll cut him some slack as I guess I’m not the first writer to embrace this theme. It really was a stellar movie, pun intended, and pretty much blew my mind. Being a die-hard science nerd, I totally embraced his depiction of black holes, worm holes, and the time-space continuum. I’d characterize it as “A Space Odyssey on Steroids.” It was a really wild ride. At one point I exclaimed loudly, “Holy Shit!” just as the movie went from ear-splitting noise to complete silence. Awk-ward…

Anyway, a few months back I announced that it was time to shop my newest project and I was girding my loins for the onslaught of expected rejection. Of course, then I was sentenced to three months of healing and rehab after rotator cuff surgery and I fell into a funk. It’s been six weeks and I’m finally able to type well enough to begin the process anew. Then I stumbled on a workshop titled “Publish Your Novel” at the Visual Arts Center where I’d just completed a workshop on Narrative. I was overjoyed! The instructor promised to hold your hand through the process, help you hone your pitch, synopsis, query letters. I quickly signed up, thrilled to have another set of objective eyes reviewing my cache of all of the above and felt a sense of relief at the approaching task.

I just received notification that the class was cancelled due to low interest and I plummeted back to earth. On my own. Again. I know. I’m whining. But sometimes the glass is full, sometimes it’s half empty and well, other times it’s dry as a desert. I just need to pull up my big girl pants (which keep getting bigger and bigger the longer I spend on this couch), fill up that glass with optimism and get the job done. I will.

So I’ll keep you posted this time. I’m thinking of trying a few Indie presses in addition to the usual cadre of literary agents. Wish me luck!


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Are You Over-Revising? Answer 2 Questions to Find Out

BuriedUnderRevisions-noirLast week I confessed the reasons Why I Haven’t Finished My Novel, and #1 is that I over-revise. To recap, that means when a story isn’t quite working, I change it in huge, drastic ways that make it a totally different story. Sometimes the main character even sports a whole new personality! My solution to this over-revising problem is to Take A Break. That’s what I’ve been doing this week whenever I get an epically large revision idea – I step away from the story for an hour or three. When I come back to it, I ask these two simple questions to test if my revisions are reasonable or overkill:


1. What is the emotional core of this story? Does this revision change that? If yes, I’m over-revising. The emotional core is the reason the character needs to go through this journey. It’s the inner lesson the character learns. It’s how the character changes at the end. Essentially, it’s the Theme (for more info read Does Your Novel Have A Theme?). If you change it, you get a different story. However, you can change plot points and not change the emotional core. But my problem is often my plot revisions do change the emotional core. To stop doing that, I move on to the next question…

2. What story problem prompted this revision? Can it be resolved without changing the story’s emotional core? My first instinct is to directly change the plot point where the problem rears its ugly head, when really I should look for solutions that don’t derail the emotional core. For example, in my current WIP my protagonist’s goal, though important to her, was hard to care about. My immediate response was, “Give her a different goal!” and ideas started flying. But a new goal changes the emotional core of the story and becomes a new story all together. So I stepped back and looked at ways to make her original goal more relatable and sympathetic without changing the story’s core, and found all I needed to do was revise the Set Up / Act I. Same goal + different set up = story problem solved. For more examples of story problems and solutions and how to find them, check out this chart: Story Edit Using the “Save the Cat” Basic Beats.

So there you have it – a little more detail into how to curb over-revising. Your trouble areas and instincts may be different than mine, but the important thing is to figure out why your revisions go off the rails and what questions to ask to stay on track.


Up Next from Heather… Where is the best place to write?

Click here to read more from Heather.


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The Controlling Idea – Not Your English Teacher’s Theme

My last post about Theme turned out to be a little contentious. Not everyone agreed with the definition, which isn’t surprising considering we were all taught in English class that theme is a) usually distilled down to one word, like “salvation” or “death”, and b) open to interpretation. This approach to theme works in a classroom setting where the point is to explore a work of fiction, but it’s not very helpful when trying to write.

Perhaps I should follow McKee’s lead and call this writing-centric theme something else:

Theme has become a rather vague term in the writer’s vocabulary. … I prefer the phrase Controlling Idea, for like theme, it names a story’s root or central idea, but it also implies function.” STORY by Robert McKee, pg. 115

So, to avoid further confusion and controversy, let’s refer to Theme as The Controlling Idea. To review, this Controlling Idea consists of a value at stake (like love, justice or freedom) and a cause that changes that value from negative to positive (or positive to negative) by the end of the story.


For example: Justice (VALUE) triumphs (the change) because the hero is smarter than the villain (CAUSE).

As stated in McKee’s quote above, the Controlling Idea implies function – it doesn’t just exist as the end meaning of a story, rather it works to build the story towards the end meaning. And if you know how the Controlling Idea does that, you can write a stronger story.

Using The Controlling Idea To Strengthen Your Story

1 – Define the Conflict. Just like every hero needs a villain, every Controlling Idea needs a Counter Idea. So if the Controlling Idea is Justice triumphs because the hero is smarter than the criminal, then the Counter Idea is Injustice reigns because the criminal is smarter than the hero.

2 – Create Dramatic Tension by making the Controlling Idea and the Counter Idea fight! In great stories, these opposite values battle for supremacy – in one scene Justice looks like it will prevail, and in the next scene Injustice seems poised for victory, and back and forth. Make the Controlling and Counter Ideas so well matched that it is unclear which will win until the very end. A fantastic example of this is the BBC series “Sherlock” – we expect Sherlock Holmes to solve the case and justice to triumph, but the show is so well written and the villains so brilliant that we really do doubt right up to the final moment whether Sherlock will succeed.

3 – Cut Meaningless Scenes. All scenes must argue for or against the Controlling Idea, otherwise the story loses dramatic tension. Take The Hunger Games series, for example. Every scene presents freedom from the Capitol as attainable or unattainable. Each time something goes right for Katniss we think, “Katniss and the citizens of Panem will get their freedom!” and then something goes wrong and we think, “Oh no, the Capitol is going to rule them forever.” The Controlling Idea doesn’t have to be obvious and in your face, but it must always be there, informing everything the characters do and everything that happens to them. If it’s not, cut the scene.

And that’s how to use a writer’s theme (aka Controlling Idea) to write a dramatic tale full of conflict, tension and meaning.

Next Up from Heather… How to stay motivated without deadlines or money.

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Does Your Novel Have a Theme with a Capital “T”?

Pig hunting for truffles_FotorTheme is like a truffle – it has to be there, just under the surface, but one must snort through much mud to unearth it. A most unpleasant process I’ve been stuck in for the last few months. So why do I keep at it? Won’t the theme of my book just magically appear once it’s written? Won’t a reviewer or professor or reader interpret the theme for me? Why do writers need to know the theme of their novel?

Simple answer: to make the book the best it can be.

Because if you’re not shooting for that, why are you reading a blog about writing craft? Right? Okay. Let’s get to work…

First, some definitions…

a)    Theme is what the story is about.

b)   Theme is the moral of the story.

c)    Theme is the lesson learned.

d)   Theme is the story’s ultimate meaning.

e)    Theme is a cat in a shark costume riding a rumba.

Which answer is correct? Though you may be tempted to pick “e” (I know I want to), you’d be wrong. However, a, b, c and d are all decent definitions of theme.

And that’s why theme is so hard: our notions of it are vague. People say, “My novel is about unconditional love!” Or death, or forgiveness, or second chances. All broad ideas claiming to be theme. But a theme must be more than that to writers, because vague notions do not help us write powerful, meaningful or impactful stories. We need to get more specific, and it doesn’t get any more specific than what some refer to as “The Screenwriter’s Bible”…

McKee's STORY coverSTORY by Robert McKee is a beast of a book, all 455 picture-less pages of it. It’s very detailed, but that’s exactly what we need to figure out an ambiguous notion like theme. McKee writes, “A true theme is not a word, but a sentence… describing how and why life undergoes change from one condition of existence at the beginning to another at the end.”

Yep, CHANGE. If you’ve been following my blog, I talk about this a lot, especially in How To Story Edit Using The Basic Beats where I mention change every other sentence. If you’re still not sure why change is so important, read this post where I compare a novel to a hamburger. Seriously, it makes sense. Read it. I’ll wait.

So a complete theme needs change. And that change happens to something humans/readers/heroes inherently value, like love, life, justice, truth, hope, equality, etc. And that value is changed because something caused it to change. Like this…

THEME = VALUE changed by CAUSE

This is what I call “Theme” with a capital “T”. McKee calls it “The Controlling Idea.” Others say “Thematic Statement.” Some label it “Central Theme” because they have many themes but know that one theme must rise above the rest and unify the whole story.

How To Find Your Theme

1) Figure out the VALUE. The value is, broadly, what’s at stake. In love stories, the value is obviously “love.” In crime novels, the value is usually “justice.” Often people equate value with theme. They say, “My novel is about justice!” but that’s not a complete Theme. They only have part of the equation.

2) Determine how that value will CHANGE. Most stories begin negative (injustice) and end positive (justice is served). If the novel is a tragedy, it will start positive and end negative.

3) Find the CAUSE. Why does justice prevail? This is the hard part. Hint: the answer lies within the protagonist. After all, the protagonist drives the story. I’ll give you two examples:

i)     Justice triumphs because the protagonist is more violent than the criminals.

ii)    Justice triumphs because the protagonist is smarter than the criminals.

Both Themes are from two different crime stories, and they’re exactly the same except for one word – the CAUSE. The first applies to the movie “Dirty Harry”, the second to Sherlock Holmes.

To break it down… Justice is the VALUE, triumph is the CHANGE from negative to positive, and violent/smarts is the CAUSE.

Get it? I certainly didn’t at first. It took me months of snorting through muddy plots and unearthing lumps of crap to finally find the Theme of my novel. In fact, I just nailed it a few hours before writing this post! But now that I’ve got it, I realize I led you all astray in my last post where I said that the theme of The Hunger Games was “rebellion”. Of course, now you and I both know that’s not a Theme, it’s a vague notion!

So, what’s the Theme of The Hunger Games trilogy? I’d sum it up like this:

“Freedom is gained because Katniss rebels against tyranny.”

The value is freedom, because ultimately that is what Katniss and the people of Panem strive for and value. The cause is rebellion, because without that nothing would change. And the change is positive, because they go from being complete slaves in their districts to… well, I won’t spoil the ending, and it wasn’t all hunky-dory, but things changed for the better.

The central Theme is the moral, the lesson and the ultimate meaning of the story. It ties everything together, and I’ll explain how next post.

Next Up from Heather… How a Theme helps you write.

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What’s a B-Story? And Why That Love Triangle Doesn’t Cut It

Before I explain what a B-Story is and why it’s crucial, here’s a list of what it is not:

  • Comic relief that is inconsequential to the main story.
  • A side plot that has nothing to do with your hero.
  • A tacked-on love story to appease those who say YA needs a love triangle.

These are not B-Stories; they are filler. And a novel is long enough without pointless filler! The B-Story must count! It must mean something! It must affect the hero! Why? Because the B-Story is the novel’s THEME.

That’s right, Theme, also known as “the meaning of the journey” or “what your hero needs to learn.” For more information about Theme read this, but for now let’s stick to what it has to do with the B-Story…

This line from Blake Synder’s book SAVE THE CAT! STRIKES BACK says it best:

The A Story is the hero’s tangible goal, what he wants. The B Story is the hero’s spiritual goal, what he needs.

As always, it’s best to demonstrate what this means by using an example, like THE HUNGER GAMES. I know, I know, I always refer to Suzanne Collin’s novel, but that’s because it’s just so damn brilliant. Even better, it has a B-Story love triangle that’s an actual plot and not lame filler. So let’s refresh the story elements of The Hunger Games

Theme: Freedom through rebellion.

A-Story (Katniss’s tangible goal): Win the Hunger Games.

B-Story (Katniss’s spiritual goal): Show the Capitol they don’t own her.

So that’s the purpose of the B-Story? Now who are the characters involved? Usually B-Story characters are love interests or friends or mentors, people who help the hero and give the hero the insight he/she needs to win in the end. In The Hunger Games, the B-Story is Katniss’s relationship with Peeta.

(I considered that the B-Story could be Haymitch since he is literally Katniss’s mentor, but it’s Peeta for the reasons listed below…)

Peeta isn’t the B-Story just because he’s the love interest (along with Gale), but because he does 5 Crucial Things That the B-Story Character Must Do:

1)   He brings up the Theme. Remember that scene the night before the Games start where Katniss and Peeta talk on the roof? On page 142 Peeta says, “I keep wishing I could think of a way to… to show the Capitol they don’t own me. That I’m more than just a piece in their Games,” and Katniss just replies, “That’s how the Games work.” Peeta already knows what Katniss needs to learn, but Katniss hasn’t got it yet. She even says as much when he asks, “Don’t you see?” and she replies, “A little. Only… no offense, but who cares, Peeta?” Katniss isn’t yet the rebel Peeta and all of Panem need her to be.

2)   He talks about Theme with the hero. Throughout the story, Peeta talks about not letting the Capitol control him and being his own person, especially when he and Katniss reunite in the cave.

3)   He nurtures the hero. The B-Story character is always there for the hero, nurturing, helping, supporting, etc. In Peeta’s case, he literally makes it his mission to protect Katniss and keep her alive in the Hunger Games.

4)   He teaches the hero the lesson/theme. Through his actions and opinions, Peeta influences Katniss not to play by the Capitol’s rules and be a pawn in the Games.

5)   He helps the hero win in the end. Peeta is there in the Finale, fighting by Katniss’s side and participating in the suicide trick. B-Story characters need not be physically present in the Final Battle, but they must have helped the hero get there.

So that is the difference between a true B-Plot Love Story and a lame, tacked-on love story – the love interest helps the hero learn the THEME. If the love story is just a pleasant distraction, kissing scenes in between fight scenes, it’s not a B-Story.

Of course, as I already said, the B-Story doesn’t have to be a love story. The B-Story character can be a mentor or a friend too. The only rule is this person must be the hero’s ally and help the hero learn the lesson/theme.

In conclusion, the purpose of the B-Story is to show that the true reason for the journey is not the tangible goal (win the Hunger Games), but the spiritual lesson that can only be found through the B-Story (the real win is not being a Capitol pawn).

Next Up from Heather… What is in a novel scene that is not in a screenplay scene? I’ll tell you next week as I adjust my Sticky Note Outline to accommodate it. ** Update: my Sticky Note Outline is still being revised, but I did figure out the Theme of my novel – FINALLY! So instead of blogging about scenes, I will blog about Theme.

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Story Edit Using The “Save The Cat” Basic Beats

Whatever your writing process, whether you outline or dive straight into prose, there’s one step we all must do – story edit. There are innumerable things to edit in a manuscript, but let’s start with the bones of the story. After all, adding metaphors and sensory descriptions won’t matter if the story is weak.

So bring out that handy Basic Beats chart. Fill it in. Even if you used this to outline your novel, things probably changed when you were writing, so update it.

Just filling in The Basic Beats will reveal missing or flimsy story elements. Bam! You’re already editing!

Once you have all the elements, start asking questions. The first one I usually ask is: “Did this story change the protagonist’s life?” Start to answer by comparing the Opening and the Final Moment…

B6 Chart_Fotor1)   Is the protagonist we meet in the Opening different from the protagonist we see in the Final Moment? i.e. Alcoholic -> Sober. Needy -> Independent. If yes, great! If no…

2)   Is the Catalyst something that will change the protagonist’s life, and in turn change the protagonist? If not, you need a stronger Catalyst. What must happen to bust the protagonist out of her old way of being and into a new way? If the Catalyst is strong but you still don’t have a character change, the problem could be the Set Up…

3)   Have you set up a protagonist that needs to change? If the protagonist starts out perfect, she has nowhere to grow. Every first-rate protagonist has something personal to overcome. Figure out her flaw/issue and you’ll discover how she needs to change. Which leads to Theme…

4)   Do you have a Theme that the protagonist needs to learn in order to identify her flaw/issue and win in the end? If no, take a look at the Dark Night of the Soul… If yes, did they learn it? Why not? The problem might be the B-Story…

5)   Dark Night of the Soul… Why did the protagonist hit rock bottom? What personal flaws prevented her from succeeding in this story? What does she need to learn about herself to get out of this mess? Whatever it is, that’s the Theme.

6)   The B-Story character is the ally who metaphorically slaps the protagonist upside the head and points out how she’s screwing up. If your protagonist doesn’t change, maybe she just needs someone to help her realize she needs to change. Characters can’t change if they’re not forced to face their faults. And if they don’t change themselves, they can’t change their lives, resulting in an unrewarding story.

So using The Basic Beats chart to story edit allows you to easily see how everything connects. More examples… If your Finale falls a little flat, inspect your Set Up and ask yourself if you gave the hero enough problems, and if you addressed those problems in the Finale. If you don’t have a Mid Point, look to the All Is Lost moment and figure out what the opposite of that would be. If you’re missing the Debate element, check out the Set Up for conflicts that would make the protagonist pause before Breaking Into 2.

In conclusion: check the chart, cross-examine every element, and make your story stronger! That’s how to use the Basic Beats to story edit.

Next Up from Heather… Outlining – Method 2: Active Beats. Because the old adage is true: actions speak louder than words.

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