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Last Week’s WW: Keep it Tight

If you tell someone that you’re writing a story, the most frequent question you’ll receive is: What’s it about?  Sometimes, even though you’re writing the thing, that’s not the easiest question to answer.  After all, there are so many ways to answer it.

My story is about a post apocalyptic world where there’s a flying island, and the ground is covered in dust.  The flying island is technologically advanced and the people there have nanites and tech tattoos.

Nope.  That’s setting.  Let’s try again.

So, there’s this guy, and he’s got these tech tattoos.  He’s different from everyone else because they all have nanites.  And then there’s the people who live on the surface of the earth, but they have to live in the wind, cause it clears the dust.  Oh, and there’s this group that lives underwater and have bubble babies.

Not a story.  Those are characters.  One more shot?

So, first there’s this guy.  And he has this brother.  And they live on this island in the sky.  The earth was destroyed hundreds of years ago.  They live in a technologically advanced place.  But the one brother, Max, he’s got these tech tats because his body rejected the nanites.  His brother, Alex, he has the nanites.  Anyway, it starts off with them witnessing a suicide.  This starts Max off on a journey of discovery.  He’s already been questioning things.  But Alex has his own problems to deal with.  His nanites are malfunctioning…

Too much!!  It’s really easy to over share.  Sure, you love your characters and every element of your story.  But if tell about all the intricate little details, people’s eyes will glaze over, and they will be sorry they asked a follow up question.  In that paragraph above, I didn’t even get through describing the first chapter of the first book of my serial fiction story.

So, what is a story about?

A story has many elements.  It needs characters, settings, events of course.  But what it really needs to be a story is plot.  Stuff has to happen.  And that stuff has to make other stuff happen.   In a lot of ways, the story is a vehicle.   It is the method by which you get from beginning to end.  Without momentum, you only have details.

When two brothers witness a death, they must set out to discover the truth about their society, the artificial intelligence that runs it, and themselves.

It’s probably okay to go into more detail then that, but at least we have a base for our story description.  Plus, you don’t want to give too much away.  If they’re intrigued, they can ask more questions.

Neat.  But, what’s your story really about?

They’re digging deeper.  Means that they’re interested.  But, it means that you have to dig deeper, too.  You have to discover the soul of your book and be able to communicate its message.  Whether you mean them to or not, stories have a message.  That message is called a Theme.

You can either go into your book with a theme in mind, or you can write, see what themes develop naturally, and then fluff them up on the next draft.  I opt for the latter.  I think that themes are hard.  Sometimes one or two will sneak in there that you didn’t expect.  Other times, a story might just smack you in the face with it.

Over-connectivity and an insatiable appetite for attention leave us vulnerable to addiction.

Free will is necessary at any cost. 

Boom.  Theme.

So.  What’s your story about?