23 September 2011

Relinquishing a Bit of Backstory

A writer hears it from me when we do a plot consultation -- the mother needs to die at the 1/4 mark / the end of the beginning. Flash forward several years (I mean several, like four or five or six), she hears it again from her critique group. Then she starts reading The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master and unravels that old plot planner I created years before and affixes it to her wall. There it is again, at the one quarter mark -- the mother must die.

Hers is a novel based on a true story.

The writer reads on in The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master and comes to understand that she never did what she knew needed to be done for the good of her story because of a back story wound the writer carried lodged in her own heart.

In real life she had not been there when her own mother died. The writer has carried guilt and remorse in her heart ever since. Suddenly she gets it. Why she never killed the mother in the story. She believes she is, on some level in real life, already responsible for the dastardly deed.

For the good of the story and for the good of her life, she needed to revise her belief system. She needed to transform.

The writer has the tendency to catastrofize (imagine final events of dramatic action around her in real life as tragedies) about life in general, OCD or posttraumatic stress if you will, from all of her imaginings and family stress. After reading the book, rather than beat herself up for the time she's lost, she seems a bit dazed and happily confused.

Of course she also recently started taking mood enhancing prescription drugs but as I was saying...

What was I saying?

Oh... I remember this old alcoholic who used to always say during our consultations, no psychology. It was over the telephone but I always imagined him pointing his finger at me as he spit out the words.

But how can you not? Writing, especially when you lose your way is so deeply wrapped up in our own personal lives.

And, anyway, is it psychology really? I see it more through the Universal Story.

Okay. My dream. I'm putting it out there.

I see people reading to the very end of The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master. Yes, I see you a better writer because of all the plot and writerly stuff in the book. I also see the Universal Story making you more at peace and able to do that which is necessary for both the good of the story and also for yourself.

This writer's story improves as does her life when she finally puts the mother in the story to rest...

For more about the Universal Story and writing a novel, memoir or screenplay, visit Plot Series: How Do I Plot a Novel, Memoir, Screenplay? on YouTube. A directory of all the steps to the series is to the right of this post.