It starts with a dilemma. A moment in the story when the character is faced with a difficult choice between two either good or bad things. We begin with dilemmas because they center stories.
When Joe Bunting wrote those words in The Write Structure, the book I’m reading now, he meant that a good structure for a story always starts with a dilemma.
He also wrote that structure is the foundation of storytelling, and no matter where you are in the writing process, whether you’re a seasoned writer or a complete novice, thinking about structure will help you solve the problems you’re facing in your writing.
What if your problem is actually being a writer?
Okay. Think two steps back. Before you start writing, you sit down to write, and before you sit down to write, you tell yourself you wanna be a writer. The first step also involves a dilemma. And if that is a story of our writing journey, you are the character facing a difficult choice between wanting to be a writer or just assuming you can’t do it.
In my opinion, that’s due to a lack of structure. The way your mind is built, arranged, or organized is what makes you choose between either writing or not writing.
I’m not saying everybody should be a writer. But if you read a lot and you love stories and storytelling, and if you ever thought about telling the stories in your head or “the stories you wanted to read”, you might have thought of being a writer. And what dissuaded you from that idea was the way your mind is structured to tell you not to do it. And we could list a million thoughts that might’ve led you to that decision, but that’s not the point here now.
And I’m not talking about outlining, creating lists, using devices you might believe to restrain your creative mind ether. I’m talking about what Joe also mentioned in that book, I’m talking about “engaging your whole self, your mind, your gut, but most of all, your heart.” No matter what. That’s what I think should build your structure.
The complex elements that build us as writers have to be structured so we can choose to become writers, then choose to sit down to write, and finally choose to write.
But if that’s not enough for you. I think we could solve that problem with another kind of structure. You probably know the hero’s journey by now. Actually, I’d say that what I’m about to tell you should be the only situation to use the old monomyth structure in our writing these days.
Here’s the thing, tho. You’re not gonna face only one dilemma. There will be three, at least. Let’s see…
We start with a call to adventure, to become writers. Then we refuse that call, and we hide that idea in a drawer, letting it rest for a few days. But then, something like a supernatural motivation slaps us in our face and makes us do something about it. We can’t refuse the call anymore. We have to write. So we start the journey. On the way, we will find a mentor, someone who will help us in that adventure, and with a little help coming from everywhere, including our hearts, we cross the first threshold and we tell ourselves, “I’m a writer and I’m gonna write.”
On the next part of the journey, we receive an invitation as soon as we sit down to write. It’s an invitation to fail. Because that’s when we’re gonna find allies and enemies, including ourselves in both positions. We’re gonna be our allies and our own enemies in that process. We will choose which one on a road of trials (and errors) until we fall into the abyss anyway where we’re gonna die, flat and instantly.
But we die as amateur writers or “aspiring writers” and then we’re reborn as the writers we find out that we wanted to be in the first place. We begin a long and winding road, then, trying to climb back up without instruments, just gut, heart, and soul. We get out of that abyss, we reach the road again. That’s the longest part of the journey, by the way. Quitting thoughts will be inevitable again.
Then our mentor dies, in a way, and we will think we’re alone and that we can’t do it anymore. At some point, we will face another temptation of quitting. Yes. Another one. That’s a good time to pause and look back and see how much we’ve accomplished, how much we’ve learned, how much we’ve grown. That’s the reward. The elixir we’re gonna drink is the lessons that rebuilt our writer structure. And we will see that when everybody thought we were not capable, including ourselves the most, we made it already. Then we’re ready to go back home.
Home is our writing career. Still dreadful af, because now we still might refuse to do it. It’s a new journey, it’s a new long, and winding road. It’s hard work. Writing a whole book? Finishing it at last? Fearing being rejected by publishers? What if I’m not good enough? I don’t wanna go back home and write if I don’t know what’s gonna happen… That’s what we’re gonna think. But we gotta write. After all the things we’ve been through in that journey, we GOTTA write.
So we’ll accept to be writers, we’ll hit the road back home. We’ll sit down to write. And we’ll “ascent to a higher plane”. We’ll become writers, the heroes of our journeys and stories.
Or so I guess… because I’m still traveling, you know? I’m still on that journey. But I believe in my writer’s heart and soul. And I believe in the structure of a mindset that allows me to write my words and share them with the world. And if I sound like a hippie poet to you, know that this is just the structure of your mind telling you it can’t be done.
That’s it for today.
Now, where are you in your writing journey? And what do you think about that whole talk? Does it help you?