Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Please Pass the MUST....

In Writing 101 you learn that every book can be reduced to one sentence.
"______________ must ________________."

Scarlett must save Tara.
Gatsby must have Daisy.
Rebecca must get the diamond.

So, my problem with my current work in progress is that I can't find the MUST.

She's an actress, coming home to her small town in Georgia because she's wounded emotionally. She wants some peace and quiet while she thinks about what to do with her career, her lovelife, and possibly her sanity.

Just as soon as she begins this journey, however, she discovers that nothing in her life was the way she thought it was. Even her parents aren't home when she finally turns up on their doorstep. So what's a girl to do? Her best friend is still there, and she's happy to share a burger with her at the local drive-in. But there's her old boyfriend too. He just had to pop up and stir the pot, didn't he?

Then there's that other Writing 101 gem that I got from my good friend, book reviewer Digby Diehl: The plot of every book can be reduced to one sentence, and here it is - A stranger comes to town.

Think about it. I challenge you to find a single work of fiction that can't be described that way. Even if the "stranger" is a great white shark or a little girl from Kansas who arrives in a house.

So in my case, the stranger is Olivia. Even though she's returning to her hometown, she's a stranger there. She left it seven years ago to seek her fame and fortune in L. A. In her mind the town is still the way it was the day she left. The reality is quite something else. She's the stranger in her own home.

But I still haven't found her MUST. Maybe it's just that Olivia's MUST is bigger than can be described. It's too sweeping to fit in one sentence. She must figure out what to do with her life now that she's achieved her dream only to lose it and discover that maybe it wasn't what she really wanted after all.....???

I MUST think about this for a while.

Have a great day!


Amanda Young said...

Hmm... I don't think any of my books have a plot that can be reduced into a sentence that simple. Do you think I'm doing something wrong? lol.

By the way, you're tagged. Pop over to my blog to find out what I'm talking about. *g*

Steve said...

So it's not "I MUST have a Starbuck's mocha?"