A student recently asked me whether there is a template for writing a story that adheres to the sort of structure that I, and others, teach in class.
I provided her with one type of example, while simultaneously emphasising that there are no real shortcuts to accomplished writing, only lampposts highlighting the journey ahead.
Here’s what I said:
“A likable Hero finds herself in a position of undeserved misfortune and decides, after initially refusing, to take action to redress the situation. But the harder she tries, the more embroiled she becomes in mounting stakes and deepening dilemmas, each, more dangerous and difficult than the last. This forces her to search deep within herself for a different solution. In doing so, she discovers, at the last minute, a liberating truth about herself which allows her to achieve her goal by tackling past misconceptions, moral flaws, and misguided plans.”
What I like about this description of a story is that it addresses both the outer and inner journeys through the character’s developmental arc. It reminds us that the inner journey steers the outer journey through the decisions our Hero makes at pivotal moments. It hints at a universal truth — that the only way our Hero can achieve the outer goal is by implementing the wisdom that comes from having faced near defeat.
Although story templates, are, by definition, reductive and constrictive, they do serve as starting points for the journey ahead.