Monday, November 15, 2010

Stakes of A Story

Creating the structure for a book is similar to creating the structure for a story. I stumbled over the idea for step-by-step stories while I was trying to figure out what my writing professors meant by the question, "What are the stakes of the story?"

The stakes equal potential risk and loss. Tension is raised. The end of the story releases the tension.

Risk. Loss. These are troubles, aggravations (tsuris). In our house we discovered the existence of the Law of the Conservation of Tsuris, just as there is a law of the Conservation of Energy (physics). The total amount of aggravation in a person remains constant and is conserved over time. Aggravation can neither be created nor destroyed, only transformed from one state to another. So that means that misplacing your glasses can be just as aggravating as having a toothache. The feeling just moves around, settling on something new without regard to importance. Stakes don't even count with this law. Judgment is absent.

Here is my specially devised Stake-O-Meter with kinds of tsuris and high-stake rankings.


Step-By-Step Story. A step-by-step structure can generate a story using the ideas of tsuris and stakes. Line one: Start with any sentence. Line two: Write down what can go wrong with this scenario, emotionally or physically. Line three: Solve the problem, but in solving it, create a new problem or conflict. Continue adding conflict, solving it, and creating another until the story seems satisfactory and complete. While life ends with death, a story doesn't have to…
  1. I wanted a sandwich.
  2. I was out of bread.
  3. I went to the store and bought a loaf. 
  4. The bread was moldy.
  5. The clerk wouldn't take it back.
  6. I offered it to a homeless guy outside. 
  7. He said he preferred bagels.
  8. I went back to the store, shelved the bread, and took bagels instead.
  9. The manager caught me.
  10. She didn't believe my explanation, but said it was so strange she would let me go if I promised never to return to the store.
  11. I apologized to the homeless guy for not having bagels to give him.
  12. He gave me a dollar.
Try it! Send me your best Step-By-Step Story! I'll choose one or more to post from what I receive.

    2 comments:

    Virginia said...

    So, now I need to try your story method. I have a book/story in mind and will use this template to ease myself into it. And maybe I'll even make it into a handmade book!

    thienkieu said...

    Great start with the blog! I'm very intrigued by this step-by-step story method. Will certainly keep it in mind for the future.