Tell the REAL Story

Have you ever read a book or heard a story that just had too many themes to follow? For example, I have a hard time with novels that have multiple families—each with people who have their own issues. It’s a challenge for me to keep the characters straight in my head, especially if the names are at all similar or difficult to remember.

Fiction isn’t the only place where multiple themes can cause confusion. This week I wrote a piece for a publisher who wanted to share a particular woman’s story. As I interviewed her, a number of interesting things surfaced about her. She has an amazing faith. Her journey with cancer has wreaked havoc on her life. Her new business is thriving. She has an emotional childhood story to tell. Any one of those aspects of her life could have provided fodder for the piece, but none of them were THE story. They were good, important and valuable parts of her life, but to write a piece that would really hit home with readers, I needed something more. In this case, I had to find the catalyst for her most significant life-changing moments; that was the real story.

The first rule of writing is to write. Let the words flow freely. Don’t edit yourself. Just write and get your thoughts on the screen / paper.

If you allow yourself the freedom to simply write, you’ll get to your word count goal faster than if you attempt to edit every word as it comes to you. But you’ll also likely discover that your free-flowing first draft is at least a little messy. Tangents will thread through your piece, be it a blog, article or chapter, like roads on a map. Those roads could lead to interesting discoveries or to dead ends. Your job is to find the main road—the one that takes the reader to the heart of your story.

Depending on your writing style, your road could be a two-lane country road with gentle curves or the HOV lane on the interstate. But pick one. When you get to the final draft, your path should be clear. Don’t let detours confuse the reader by taking the story off topic.

Take a step back and look at the whole “map.” Find the best route for your story. If you keep it interesting and clear, your reader will follow you to “THE END” to get the real story.


Comment and Share: How do you decide which story lines to follow and which to leave out?


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