Saturday, March 01, 2014

The Weekend Writer: Story Vs. Situation. An Illustration From House Hunters.

Earlier this week, Liz B. from A Chair, a Fireplace and a Tea Cozy and I were discussing an episode of House Hunters over at Facebook. We'd both seen a show involving a couple who used what Liz called "alter egos." Husband and wife were of Italian heritage and would occasionally start talking to each other in stereotypical elderly Italian voices. They referred to themselves as something like Luigi and Lucinda when they were in old person Italian mode.

Liz and I were in agreement that this was an odd aspect of personality to want to expose on TV. However, the real estate agent for the episode, who was a friend of the wife, said the house hunting couple used the Luigi and Lucinda characters to help them work out disagreements. This made sense to me, though I still wouldn't have wanted strangers, or maybe even anyone else, to know about it.

What does this have to do with us? Well, Lucinda was pregnant. And while Liz and I were going back and forth about this, I pointed out that some day after that child is born, s/he is going to hear those voices coming out of Mom and Dad. I suggested it was a book idea.

But what kind of a book idea? 

That set-up--a child with parents who speak to each other in funny voices--is a situation. It is not a story idea because it doesn't describe something happening to someone and, even better, suggest why it matters.

Situation: A child has parents who speak to each other in accented, elderly voices.

Story Idea: A child, realizing the accented, elderly voices his parents sometimes use when speaking to one another actually belong to the spirits of people from the past who have forced themselves into mom and dad's bodies, must find a way to free his folks and bring happiness to his family for the first time.

A situation is static and doesn't give writers much to work with. A story idea is far more dynamic. It gives writers a direction to work in and even gives a hint of some action.

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