Thursday, May 2, 2013

Stretching the Story Seed

We continue with our story seed featuring Dick, love interest Sally, bossy Jane, jealous Ted, and the meteor streaking toward earth. We have gowned it as a Romance. We have twisted it into a Thriller. What else can we do with it?

We can apply the Literary skeleton and explore the theme that relationships are vulnerable to unexpected blows. The impending meteor strike could be real or imagined, past or present. The tension it creates, or the mystery that surrounds it, tests the bonds of the people involved. Threatening situations can bring out the best or worst in people. The central question becomes: what life altering decision will Dick make and how will his life change? He can decide to walk away from his chosen career, stay or leave an unsatisfying relationship, or come to terms with the fact that you can’t save everyone, especially from themselves.

We can take it on a Road Trip. Dick, Sally, Jane, and Ted travel to the crash site. What they find when they get there isn’t the main concern, it is what they learn along the way. Dick can gain an important insight about himself or clear up a misunderstanding from the past. He can find out Sally is having an affair with Ted and Jane has always been in love with him. External obstacles make the destination difficult to reach and interpersonal squabbles bring the conflict to a head, but the internal journey is the focus. The Road Trip could be a slow psychological dissection or a hilarious comedy.

We can wrangle it into a Western. Dick is the Sheriff. Ted owns the ranch where the meteor landed. Jane is the saloon girl who secretly pines for Dick while fighting off unwelcome advances from Ted. Sally is the new widow in town that Dick falls for. The Indians see the meteor as a sign that the white man must leave town or their world will be destroyed. The overall story question becomes will they stay or will they go?

We can warp it into a Science Fiction future where the meteor is being controlled by savage Carpathians. Dick is the ship’s captain. Ted is his argumentative first officer. Jane is his communications director and is having an affair with Ted. Jane wants Ted to take the Captain’s seat so she can become first officer. Sally is the security chief and half Carpathian. Dick is intent on finding a way to turn the meteor against the Carpathians while Sally lobbies for a peaceful resolution. After all, not all Carpathians are evil. Ted and Jane realize at the last minute that if Dick fails, they all die along with promotion opportunities. Sally forges a peace treaty while Ted and Jane live to plot another day and Dick is once again the hero in the eyes of the federation.

When you have a story idea, try it on different skeletons until you find the best fit. Next time we'll discuss how to develop your selected story skeleton.

If you want to read more about story skeletons, check out Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of Conflict available in paperback and Kindle editions.

Diana Hurwitz is the author of Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of Conflict, Story Building Blocks II: Crafting Believable Conflict, Story Building Blocks III: The Revision Layers, and the YA adventure series Mythikas Island. Her weekly blog, Game On: Crafting Believable Conflict explores how characters behave and misbehave. Visit for more information and free writing tools. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.


  1. I've been on the edge of my seat for weeks now ... what happens to earth and the dang meteor?

  2. Great concept. Sometimes I find myself writing a story but it feels off for some reason. Maybe I need to start switching skeletons around!

  3. Some really great ideas for developing a storyline. Food for thought! Thanks.

  4. Ah, finally Dick, Ted, Jane, and Sally are playing in my neck of the woods (the literary skeleton). After reading along with your posts for a while now, Diana, I'm guessing that even if readers don't have a firm intellectual grasp on either story structure lexicon or genre politics, one of these will just feel right. It's like coming home to your kind of story.

  5. Christopher, the meteor strikes and eliminates the need for us to write the dang thing! LOL.

  6. Diana, where's the buy link for your book? Thanks.

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  8. Dick, Jane, Sally, et al., have certainly grown up since I first met them in first grade in the mid 1940s. Their adventures have matured...even if they have some ongoing issues in that arena. Actually, this has been a very insightful exploration of story development in various genres, using the same characters, likely with the same personality traits but with different traits dominating. Well done, Diana.

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