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Essay

The Shape of Stories

Photo by Danny on Unsplash

Writing is tough, but what happens when it’s not? Say you’re working on the first draft of a story. You’re humming along and things are going great. Then you notice you’ve written 5,000 words and you’re nowhere near the end of it. How do you solve this problem?

Do you write a novel? Is your idea even big enough? How can you tell? Quick answer: you can’t. At least not initially. 

Your story tells you what it wants to be. Is it a poem or a one act play? A screenplay or a YA novel? Are you tuned into what your writing is saying to you?

Do you feel resistance while you’re writing your story? Is the narrative pushing back on you? Try changing it up and it may work even better. Embrace the challenge and experiment, the results may surprise you.

This idea came to me recently when I was working on a dark, twisted sci-fi piece. Initially, I felt it should be a short story. As I revised it several times, I couldn’t find the right entry point and it was driving me nuts. Was there too much backstory or not enough? 

Then it came to me. This idea might make for a great “Black Mirror” script. I’m going to try that next and see how it goes. I’ve got nothing to lose, and neither do you when you change the form of your story.

These days, stories are constantly morphing from one medium to the next. Podcasts are being turned into TV series. Movies are transformed into musicals and then into movie musicals. Did you know David Lynch’s signature film “Mulholland Drive” was originally a TV pilot that didn’t get picked up? 

So the next time you get frustrated with a piece of writing, open your ears. Your story is telling you what it wants, what it needs. And it’s your job to listen. 

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