My answer, as well as the solution, is actually the same answer/solution I give to writers who have stories they're deeply passionate about making sure they write, but who are feeling overwhelmed about where to start. Hint: it's all about the feelings!
The most powerful place to start, is with the one element no story can be without and no AI can effectively duplicate: the deep emotional arc of your protagonist.
The emotional arc of the protagonist is what pumps life through a story’s veins. As an audience its the thing that, deep down, we’re there to see or read. It’s not enough to be clever, we want to feel something.
I love the idea of diving into this part, right at the beginning of any writing journey, because it's the time before anything has been fully decided about your plot. Before anything has been locked down in your mind. A time when all things are still possible, and you’re hopefully not attached to any one direction. Where you're still willing to experiment. To throw shit against the wall and see what sticks.
From this space, you can allow your gut instincts to reign supreme. While you're still in a space of nothing but questions, you have no choice but to draw answers from your heart, rather than your head. And I believe that’s where the magic gets in.
I also like doing it right at the top of the development journey, because it’s the part writers all too often try to avoid.
Too many writers like to pretend a powerful emotional arc will magically show up on its own during development. And it will. To some degree. Maybe. But to what extent? Enough to ensure your protagonist’s emotional journey hits readers right in the gut? Enough to ensure that readers become so bonded with the character's emotional concerns that they can’t stand to put down the book, or quit watching, until they know how it’s all resolved?
Again in this day of AI, the feeling tone of your story is the one thing you really do not want to leave to chance. Because, it's the one area us, very human, writers are guaranteed we will always be better at expressing than the AI bots. Feelings. They don't have them.
So why do writers avoid it? My guess is because it can be one of the most humbling and confronting parts. It hits us where we care. And can be downright, mentally and emotionally pokey.
It’s hard to write a powerful emotional arc for your protagonist without feeling and going through a lot of those emotions yourself. Especially since the story comes from you and what you know. The writer and the writing can’t really be separated, therefore it most definitely is a personal, and sometimes, disruptive experience. But it's sooooo worth it.
That’s why, as a writing coach, I latch on to this part the hardest. I encourage all my students to fight off those saboteurs that will absolutely show up to help you avoid this part of the writing journey, or help you to keep you skimming the surface.
That inner saboteur will ply you with all manner of clever reasons about why you don’t need to do this. Or why you should just hurry up and get on with the plotting and other parts that “really matter”, as if those are the only parts that will truly move the story forward.
But I insist my students stay with it, however long it takes, until they get it. No matter how much the voices in their head are screaming “but it’s taking too long”.
Because here's the gift of it all: if you nail the emotional arc right up front, then you can use it as your base. Your story train tracks, if you will. And from there, you can be rest assured that when it comes time to start plotting out your story, every plot point will have a reason that is organic and true, not simply conjured for storytelling convenience.
Nothing in your story will be superfluous. You will know why each twist and turn needs to happen to prod your protagonist along. In fact, your entire experience of beating out and plotting your story will be much faster, intentional and fulfilling.
If you see my point and you'd like some help getting started in this way, then you might really enjoy the new intensive I've got starting up Feb 14th. It's called The Heart of the Story and it's an 8 week group intensive (weekly live calls on Zoom) designed to help you have a powerful breakthrough in understanding around your protagonist's emotional arc.
Over the course of the 8 weeks, I’ll create a cozy writers room, where you'll feel comfortable enough to step out of your head and into the emotional shoes of your protagonist.
Basically we'll come at the work sideways. Instead of mentally trying to figure anything out, my writing exercises and prompts will encourage you to see your protagonist's world (and the ways they grow and change) in the way an actor would. Directly through THEIR eyes.
Think of it like the google street view of your story. You’ll dive inside the POV of the protagonist seeing whatever there is to see.
And in the end, you’ll be left with a knowing of exactly how your protagonist would react to any story element you throw at them, and a deeper understanding of what needs to happen with your plot and supporting characters.
This 8 week intensive comes with the following:
8 live calls where we workshop the beats of the emotional arc together
Lifetime access to our signature prompts that can be used over and over again
Lifetime access to our Loving The Process writing community
8 week Membership in the Slow Writing Challenge (which includes weekly challenges, daily co-writing calls and monthly community meet ups)
2 months credit towards our year long program if you decide to stick around
This program is normally $697, which my students will tell you is well worth the price. But if you sign up before Sunday Feb 4th, you'll get my student price of $397 or 2 payments of $199 pr/mo.
If you'd like to sign up now, you can do so at the links below
For FULL discount price of $397 click HERE
For PAYMENTS of the discounted price 2 x $199 click HERE