Why this Story?

Anonymous asked: “So I have a story I’ve been developing, but I’ve only really developed the main characters and the world. There’s no villain or conflict I can dream up, but I love my characters and their world!”

This is not an unfamiliar problem to me. When I feel this way, I realize, I’m write because I love to write but still, that’s not the point. All stories have direction. There’s a conflict to be dealt with, there’s an end to meet. 

I can go on writing for as long as I want to but if there’s no end point, no destination I’m trying to reach, it’s not going to be a fulfilling read. If you’re not writing for a reader, that’s fine, but that’s not the focus today. Even stories like “Little Red Riding Hood” have a purpose. In that one it’s not about a talking wolf as cool as that might be, it’s about why you shouldn’t trust strangers. 

So when you are looking for conflict, sometimes it is a matter of asking, “why this story?” What are you trying to say with your work? Why does it need to be told? It’s okay if you don’t know the answers at first. These aren’t easy questions. 

You might love the world and the characters, so think, why is it that this world has drawn you in? What parts of it interest you? Is there anything wrong happening there? What potential struggles might your characters deal with? They don’t have to be on a quest or seeking some great prize or defeating some evildoer. It might mean living a day in their shoes and thinking, what’s wrong with this picture? What is this character upset with? What do they want? 

It’s fine to love to write something just because you love to write, but then there’s also the truth that writing is more than just that. There’s a mission there. There’s a complicated issue at its heart that only this story can flesh out and illustrate. There might be a lot of different issues actually. I suggest trying to dig deep into the characters and start exploring. Some writers write what they call “discovery drafts” where they just start writing and see where the story leads. That’s fine to do. That’s a strategy. And if that’s what’s needed to give your story a forward momentum, that’s okay too. 

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