Friday, August 17, 2012

Finding the Inner Story of Your Book--Behind the Outer Drama, What's the Real Meaning?

I worked with a writer a few years ago, who was writing a fascinating story.  He'd been through serious medical trauma, and he wanted to write a book about it partly to allow himself to gain insight, partly to help others experiencing this.

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?
Inner story contributes discovery to your book because it takes the reader along on a journey of meaning. 

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.