I write my narrative in 5 different steps. Story, Plot, Character, Outline and Final First Draft (so named because the first draft has multitude of lives, usually around 20-30 rewrites). I start with a simple story idea:
Girl leaves law school to join the circus as a trapeze artist.
I know and lived this story, so the narrative and descriptions are easy/peasy. But there is no plot; it is just what I know. People are fascinated to hear my circus ramblings and what it is like to live with 6 elephants. To turn into a movie or novel, I must first interject story elements (and then a plot).
These five elements are the building blocks of story:
1. Action. What are your characters doing? How did she join the circus? How did the circus people react to her? What was it like training for the trapeze? What is it like to travel so much (typical circus travels 100 miles per day).
2. Dialogue. What are they saying? This is important to this story because within the circus there are multi languages and unique ways of communicating. Even with the circus animals, there is a specific language. The “town people” speak different from the “artists” and the individual acts, cultures and societies all have succinic infrastructures. The author must embody each as they write their dialogue.
3. Description. What are they seeing, hearing, touching, tasting, and smelling? With the circus story, this is a crucial element as the traveling with animals to a different city every day is a unique experience. Each venue is distinct and traveling can add a unique element to your story (and your life).
4. Inner Monologue. What are they thinking? We have our hero- who is not accepted in her native land, with the circus folks or the townies. How does this affect the plot, the moving of the story and the feeling of the narrative? How does other supporting characters feel about this interesting life choice? And the one everyone asks- what did her mother think?
5. Exposition / Narrative. What other information does the narrator want us to know? Because YOU write the narrative, this is the secret sub-story that you must use with extreme caution. Too much narrative can become trite and boring. Too little insight leaves the audience guessing. This is where you embody the sage advice, “Show don’t tell”.
Your exercise today is to write out a simple story. I mean simple. Joyce goes the hairdresser. Carla’s car breaks down. Sheila gets a new cat.
Take that simple premise and add the 5 elements of story. This is more of a left-brain exercise, than a creative one. But by getting that out, the narrative becomes easy as a triple summersault.
Now – go write- it only takes minutes a day and you owe it to your story!!