Your Story Isn't Set in Stone


Over the years, I've worked as a story consultant with writers of many stripes: screenwriters, documentary filmmakers, novelists, and folks who produce story experiences across multiple platforms.

The process of getting a story written or finally presented to an audience always includes a period of -

'OMG this sucks! It's total dreck. This is unrecognizable from the initial idea, and I can't possibly salvage this. What am I doing? I've lost the thread...'

followed usually by panic, and then despair and great gnashing of teeth...until you've been through the creative process once or twice (or Life for a while).

Then you realize you're actually right where you're supposed to be, on the cusp of a story with a Point of View. You had to stretch and beat and flatten your story to grasp what you really want to say with it. Your framing of the story is what makes it unique, and the specific makes stories universal and relatable

Now, think about a story somebody might have about herself.

Try this one on: There always seems to be a black cloud following me. It's been this way since my childhood. I've never been able to shake it.

Imagine if you were a writer or director given a character with this story. How would you frame it? Would it be a story about resignation? How about victimhood? Would you want to spend your energies - months, maybe years of effort - on putting that story out there?

Instead, how else might you frame it? As a story about a person who has kept hope alive in the face of a lifetime of misfortunes? Or, how about a story about fully grieving trauma and letting go of a self-defeating victim mentality? Or, finally, maybe it would be a story about always seeking and finding a silver lining in Life's storm clouds?

We all have our stories about ourselves, our histories, our lives. It is predictable, IMO, that we reach those panicked spots where we think our story really sucks, and that it's never going to get out of its misshapen, repetitive, uninspired, ugly phase.

It will. It does. Keep going. Keep revising. Try imagining a new frame for your stories. Tell your story anew with a compassionate point of view. No harshing on the Heroine allowed!

Here's a challenge. Tell me your revised story in one sentence. :)