It's time for a guest blogger - today I welcome Carolyn Frank. She is hosting me on her blog as well - go check it out! Carolyn, take it away.
Today being Friday the 13th, I felt "luck" would be a fitting topic.
My husband and I watched the movie Super 8 over the holidays, hoping for the typical Steven Spielberg type of entertainment. We were disappointed. After reading some reviews, we found that the movie had done relatively poorly for a Spielberg film, confirming our sentiments.
Was Super 8’s lack of success merely a case of bad luck for Spielberg? I don’t think so. I think it was a matter of why a lot of books flop—it lacked a story question. (A story question is: what does the protagonist want; what is his goal. Jordan McCollum has an awesome post about this on her website about this.)
My husband isn’t even a writer, or a reader of fiction, but he recognized the lack of “story” in the movie. “What was the movie really about?” he asked. “Was it a story about a boy losing his mother, a story about kids making movies, a story about a kid experiencing his first love, or a story about an alien wanting to go home?”
It could have been about any one of those and been a good story. But unfortunately, it was about all of them, yet none of them. It was like trying to make a meal out of the free samples at Sam’s Club; they’re all tasty, but you come away wanting a real meal, one that works together to satisfy your hunger and your nutritional needs.
Having a strong story question is essential to the success of any story, whether on the page or on the screen. And just knowing what the protagonist wants is not enough. The entire focus of the story must work around it—not special effects or interesting side characters. What he wants must be in jeopardy, not some alien that we haven’t even come to care about. And the resolution needs to pertain to what he wanted, not the cool destruction of an entire town so some alien’s spaceship can mysteriously (I didn’t understand this part), come together and fly him out of there.
Super 8 is prime example of how even the most polished of artists can lose sight of what makes a story tick. A famous name alone cannot ensure the success of a production or a book. In one aspect we are on a level playing field with the big name authors/producers—it’s not a matter of luck that will make our works successful, it’s a matter of following the time tested rules of story.
Carolyn Frank’s first book, Hattie’s Promise, will be coming out this spring. It is a Middle Grade historical fiction set in the shadow of Bryce Canyon before it became a national park. Before she started writing seriously, Carolyn created and owned her own company, Puppet Partners Inc. She designed puppets and wrote and produced numerous puppet plays for the educational market.