I recently had the pleasure of giving a friend some notes on his script (a drama). It was a great take on a familiar subject, but I had some trouble determining what kind of story they were trying to tell.
One of my suggestions was to streamline the story so it was more focused on the primary storyline as indicated by the central question. He asked me to elaborate.
I put it this way:
The inciting incident raises the central question of the story, and everything after that revolves around answering it – which takes place in the climax/showdown part. Anything that’s not connected to the central question doesn’t need to be there and should therefore be cut.
This isn’t to say you can’t have subplots, but even those should be in some way tied to the central question.
What would you say are the inciting incident and central question in your story? We, the reader/audience, want to know; we’re constantly asking that central question and want to see how the answer comes to be.
To put it in perspective, albeit from an action-adventure approach, in THE LORD OF THE RINGS films, after some necessary exposition, we learn the central question as “Will Frodo get the Ring to Mt Doom?”
Notice how everything after that revolves around that question in some way. Each scene continues to ask the question and gets us a little closer to finding out the answer, even if it might seem like the scene isn’t connected to it and about something else entirely.
On top of all of that, since you need conflict, the hero’s journey to achieve their goal is going to be rife with obstacles that would otherwise prevent them from doing that. Every time they encounter one of those obstacles and the hero reaching their goal is put in jeopardy, the central question is once again raised.
Hope this helps.
4 thoughts on “One question to rule them all”
Thanks Paul for reminding us all about the importance of the “inciting incident” and how everything after that revolves around that “incident” followed by the resultant dilemma for (protagonist) in some way – and the need for “resolution” of said dilemma. You know your craft, mate! Well done!!! Moreover, 10/10 for helping your friend! That’s what we’re here for: to help each other.Right?
Thanks! That, and to enjoy a tasty piece of pie when possible…
I LOVE RICH, DECADENT CHEESE CAKE –
See the dilemma here?
Locate cheesecake. Eat. May be one of the shortest stories ever.