Thursday, November 12, 2015

Story Line/Plot Line

The basic idea of a story line is that it sets out a story's core issue of human need, speaks to that issues advancing toward fulfillment, and speaks of what that fulfillment creates. For example, a simple story line for Romeo and Juliet would be that...

Romeo and Juliet begins by introducing a young man and woman who are in love with the idea of love. When they fall in love, to be together these young characters must act in spite of the escalating mutual hatred of their families. By being willing to die to prove their love, they act out the power of great -- if tragic -- love.

Beginning, middle, end.

The plot line of Romeo and Juliet could be described as follows...

A young man falls in love with a girl who belongs to a clan his family has been feuding with for generations. They both must resort to increasing acts of defiance to be together in spite of the hatred of their families. In the end, each chooses death rather than to be apart from their beloved, acting out that great love cannot be denied.

Beginning, middle, end.

I came onto the idea of story line/plot line while teaching an on-line class. The structure of the class was that I would meet 3-4 people as a group in a chat-type environment, then the following week I would meet with people individually.

During a private session, I described to each writer a story line for his story. I then asked each writer to repeat back that simple story line. Each repeated back to me a plot line, even though the description of a story line was still on the screen.

I then asked each writer to send me the first page of their novels.

Not one of them wrote anything that suggested in the slightest the beginning of a story. It was all plot details and descriptions of things.

That was a great AHA! moment for me. This is the most common failure in weak writing, no clear sense of purpose or drama from the beginning of a story.

To understand the connection between story line/plot line is to see into the foundation of a story, to see whether every element is advancing the story in a purposeful way. If you understand story line/plot line, you can tell a story with multiple time lines or multiple narrators.

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