What is your story about?
If you are struggling with your story, if you don’t know where it is going, if it seems to not make sense, then I would hazard that this the question you need to ask yourself.
Go ahead and write down your answer.
Now read your answer with this in mind:
Is my answer actually who my story is about?
Is my answer actually what happens in the story?
If you answered yes to either or both of the last two questions, then you haven’t answered the initial question: What is your story about?
The great stories have underlying themes that serve as their foundation, their roots, and give the story reason and function.
Let’s take two of the modern classics as examples: Lord of the Rings and Dune.
On the surface, Lord of the Rings appears to be an adventure story complete with little people and wizards and dragons and elves and goblins and The Big Baddy and all that gobledegook. If that was all that Lord of the Rings were about, it would never have become the timeless classic that it is. There is a very basic underlying reason for this story which many people are aware of, but some may not be aware of. Lord of the Rings is an expose on British class structure contemporaneous to when Tolkien wrote the story. It was Tolkien’s way of criticizing class structure in Britain at a time when it would have been a bit taboo to do so, but when wrapped in the guise of a fantasy story, suddenly acceptable.
Frank Herbert’s Dune is another story which has stood the test of time and still ranks as one of the benchmark examples of science fiction at its best. Why? Is it because it has princes and dukes and their concubines? Is it because it has great giant sand worms and fierce desert warriors? Perhaps the strange mixing of religion and science? Yes, all of these things make for a rich and entertaining story, but what is the story about?? Dune is about resource allocation. What happens when some have and others don’t and what happens when the haves and the havenots start to change places. That is the reason for the writing of the story and the reason that it pulls you in and keeps you in.
So, when you feel that your story is a bit one dimensional, when it just seems flat and not very layered or complex, ask yourself what is the reason for your story.
What is it about?
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