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“The story falls apart,” the writer laments. I’ve heard that from many writers, and I’ve said it myself. Sometimes the tales we create turn into a pile of junk with alarming regularity, even if this happens in our heads. That’s because stories only work in motion – just like a living thing.
A story is a lot like a body, constantly in motion, and only in motion is it alive. Scenes connect, actions flowing like blood between theme. An event in one part of the story flies across the tale to create events later, a shocking nerve signal of continuity. Strong world ideas hold it together, the bones and muscles that give the tale solidity.
But if it stops moving, flowing, living, it slows. It stills. It may even die.
The problem is, we often harm our living stories.
We strangle them, trying to force them down certain paths. A story is a living thing, and its going to surprise us – the more we force it, the more it slows, the more danger we kill it.
We try to force them to move faster, as if we’re drugging them for performance. As we force them, they wear, continuity and characters malfunctioning, and if we’re not careful, they sicken and die.
We focus on tiny issues of stories, ignoring larger issues of health. Distracted, we don’t address the important parts of our story, and the story staggers and stumbles.
We become lost in huge abstract issues of our tales, ignoring important smaller ones of our tales. Focusing on giant overarching issues, we miss tiny flaws in our stories, and like our health, tiny issues grow to larger ones. We can be surprised at what we lost.
We go for crank ideas and trendy suggestions, following today’s latest trend or writing advice. Just like crank medicine and diet fads, these arent good for us, but we get caught up in the moment and the hype. It is only later that we have to figure out how we harmed our stories and fix the damage we inflicted.
Take care of your story just like you would a living thing. It’s a good metaphor – and if nothing else, can give us a bit of writer hypochondria to keep us on alert.