Stripping to the Heart of the Story

Whether it’s Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Adventure, YA, Thriller, or Romance, popular fiction has a way of taking over the story.

Personally, I sometimes fall into the trap of writing for excitement and action instead of plot.  A good piece of advice is this:

A good book is only great when you can strip away all of the pomp and flash and excitement, and, at the heart, you still have a strong story.  That means you can take out the dragons, the hostages situations, the gun battles, the strange creatures, and it’s still worth reading.


Look at Orson Scott Card’s “Ender’s Game.”  Sure, it’s about alien invasions, futuristic tech, and fighting.  But at it’s core, it’s about a boy who struggles to balance his desire for acceptance and success with his responsibilities.  It’s about proving himself and doing what is needed of him, saving humanity while retaining his own humanity.

Look at Harry Potter.  Sure, it’s got magic, murderers, prophecies, and creatures.  But at the heart, it’s about a kid growing up, finding out what happened to his parents, and trying to become the person that the world needs him to be while trying to find a sense of normalcy and friendship despite a tragic and famous history.

Look at Twilight.  Sure, it’s got a love triangle, wolves, vampires, and melodrama.  But essentially it is the story of a girl who wants something, and is willing to pursue it even though it is dangerous.


So look at your story.  Take away all of the things you worked so hard to create, invent and describe.  What is the heart of the story, and is it worth reading?

Mostly, it boils down to character conflict.  Not just who can get to the Almighty Powerful Staff of Fate first to save or scrap the day.  But why is the character doing this at all?  What is their motivation.  How do they change by the end of the story?


One thought on “Stripping to the Heart of the Story

  1. Pingback: Heart of Your Story | words — and other things

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