Saturday, November 9, 2013

The Threads We Weave

What is a thread? Or better yet, what is a thread to you? Think about it. Just as your shirt is held together by millions of threads woven and sewn together to make a fine and colorful article of clothing, your story can be constructed much the same way. Each thread adds strength and color to the finished product. So how many threads run through your stories?

There is of course the main thread, where your main character makes his or her way through the pages of your book (or books). But what about the cloth of your story? Where does all the other threads work in? What is a thread?

A thread through your story can be several things. Main ones will of course be your different characters. Everyone has a life, and though secondary characters are far from up front in your story, they still need to have a life. Even if you never mention it, I strongly advise you spend at least a little time on every character in your story and nail down life issues that are more than just appearance. If for just a little while, you consider every character as the main character of their own story, when they walk into your character's story, they will have goals and desires of their own that will dictate or conflict with the choices they have to make as long as they are involved with your character. Can you see how secondary characters with a life can enhance your story? They have an agenda. They have their own plans. With this in mind, it is no longer just a convenient bend in your story to have them work with your character; your character now needs to work a little bit in order to sway them to his side.

Other threads come from events that you plan for your story. Lets use an example here. Lets say your character suddenly needs to know how to ride a motorcycle. It kinda came out of the blue, but for him to chase the bad guy through the open back country, it would be out of place for jeeps, or maybe jeeps couldn't go where your antagonist went with his little dirt bike. So, needing to know how to ride a bike is a thread. You have a decision to make here, weave this thread through your story or just make it so, as Picard used to say on Star Trek. Then again, if this is an all guy kind of story, making it so might be just fine.

Lets try a different example. Your character is on a treasure hunt and he finds several items. Lets say he finds ten items, and together they weigh one hundred pounds. What is the decision he needs to make here? How can one move one hundred pounds of valuable, irreplaceable, irretrievable items? Does he leave some behind anyway? He might have to. Or maybe, he has his truck just outside. Hmmm Can he do it? Can he move them all? But the thread is preparing him for this find. Where did the truck come from? How did he get it there? That is the thread.

Every decision your characters make can turn into a thread. Every detail has roots and branches, and it all weaves together to make a tapestry with depth, color and strength, a tapestry comfortable enough to snuggle in with for the long haul. So how do you weave your story?



1 comment:

William Kendall said...

I have often done writing exercises- perhaps as a draft, perhaps as a blog- in various forms. A narrative short, a character interview, the voice of a character. It brings out the secondary characters in a strong way, and helps you weave that into the core story.