Story saved my life.
I’m in one of those recovery programs—you know the ones: similar to the one in Days of Wine and Roses. And the simple story in every member’s speech—“what we were like, what happened, and what we’re like now”—gave me hope and taught me what I needed to know to trudge that long road back from the brink of death. In the course of that journey I learned to tell my own story in such a way as to fascinate two hundred crazy people for an hour. What I was like, what happened, and what I’m like now.
In that process I learned that if I spent too much time in the “establishing shot” I’d lose my audience. If I spent too much time describing my insanity in full bloom, I’d lose my audience. I needed to allow time to describe exactly what I’d done to recover. And I needed to describe “what I’m like now” so that it clearly showed how what I had achieved was infinitely better than what I’d had before. But that timing didn’t come naturally—I had to learn it. Some recovering folks never do.
OK, then. Silver Dragon’s big astonishing epiphany for today: It works just the same in writing. All this stuff I’m learning in Story Genius and Save the Cat and all the other books I’ve bought is… the same stuff I use to tell my recovery story. Duh.
I just have to apply that to my writing. And all the books about story structure, outlining, beats, Goal and Motivation, etc. ad infinitum—are about how to tell “what my protagonist was like, what happened, and what he’s like now…” in such a way as to keep readers engaged.