Finding The Heart Of Your Story

Some people when they right have the privilege of knowing what their story is about before they even get to writing. Those people I think are really lucky. For all the plotting that I do, I never know the heart of the story when I start. I usually don’t start to figure it out until I’ well into the novel. Heck, sometimes it doesn’t happen until midway through the novel. Sometimes it’s not until I’ve finished the novel and I start to think of it that I figure out what the story is about.

This moment of bliss once one realizes that you’ve found the heart of the story is something that’s almost incomparable. All your hard work has finally paid off into something that actually means something.

Until that moment, describing your book can feel shallow. Rattling off plot points doesn’t really convey the heart of the story. It doesn’t give anyone an idea of the journey that they are going through. Sometimes stepping back from a piece allows you to hit that moment of clarity when it all becomes clear for the first time. Once you know what your story is about you can look at all the parts that make it up objectively. Are the scenes in your novel adding to the story? Do they progress your characters journey or complicate it?

I’ve mentioned previously that I’m currently stepping outside of the box and writing something I’ve never attempted before (YA Contemporary). I went in with no idea of what I was writing. I just had one line, then another line, and another. Eventually, I had a whole scene and an idea for another. Right before me a story was blossoming. I was pantsing it. Sure, I had ideas in my head of where the story would go, but I never wrote it down. I never committed myself to anything. I just wrote and tried to provide interesting situations for my main character and figure out obstacles to put in front of her. But then I hit a slump. Things started to go well for her, but her story certainly wasn’t over. So in an attempt to throw her into an impossible situation, I breached a topic that struck a cord that related to a through line I’d placed in the novel. Sure, I had a plot that was moving forward, but finally I understood the story of the novel. It became so abundantly clear as to why my main character was reeling against everything that was being thrown her way.

Most importantly, after the high of finding the heart of your story fades, you can then edit it to pieces until it shines. Without knowing the heart of your story it’ll be damn near impossible for the story to be the best it can possibly.

When do you generally find the heart of your story?

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