We first worked on his storyboard, tracking the outer dramatic events, and he listed them without flinching. I felt some writerly envy as I read them--not because I wanted to experience what he went through, but because who wouldn't love a list of such strong outer events to frame a reader's journey. Some were so intense, they felt like a page from a tabloid.
Outer story intact, we next began to work on the inner story. Inner story is the other half of all books. It answers the questions Why? And sometimes the questions What? and How?
As in . . . Why should I care? What did you learn? How are you different?
I asked this writer to begin listing his inner turning points. He sat for a long time in front of the computer. Not much came out. "I'm different," he said. "But I don't really know how."
His answer told me a lot: First, his book journey would be different than he expected. He would have some research to do, to find his inner story.
Second, getting this book to a publishable quality would be harder than he imagined. The outer events were digested--and because of this, comparatively easy for him to write. But the inner meaning would require a different view, beyond his outer drama. he'd have to get a broader perspective on his story. I knew he could do it, but it wouldn't be easy.
The Surprise of Inner Story
We don't know what we'll get when we begin researching inner story. Sometimes the meaning of our own books--our own lives, even--is not clear to us at first. Many writers write books to discover this, but they don't always start out knowing this as a goal.
Inner story usually surprises us. This is how I, personally, know I've found it. Strong inner story is a journey of discovery, and those kinds of journeys surprise writer as well as reader as they find their way to the page.
A colleague once put it this way: "If the writer isn't surprised, the reader won't be either."
Here's another tip: Because inner story is also shown more often than told--telling too much defeats its delicate nature--writing effective inner story means being willing to not know everything when you begin. Are you comfortable with that? Not everyone is.
Exercise: Assessing Your
Inner/Outer Story Strengths
any images, thoughts, feelings, interpretations, or meaning about what happened—the inner story.