Why the "Now" Is the Key

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Chapter 5

How Do We Make a Story: Why the "NOW" is the Key

You have your camera, writer-director, what do you do next?

You have to understand that stories happen in the middle of things—in the real-life present action or what I like to call The Now.

Here's what I mean: At this moment you and I are meeting. We are here together right now. When we finish we will have reached the conclusion of our meeting. In a story, what happens in-between is a story when something happens to me or you that changes either or both of us in the present action, the now of the story—or for our purposes to explain this another way, while you and I are together here.

All stories are about someone struggling with something, to reach some goal, perhaps. You and I are struggling to be good writers, to tell great stories that our readers will care about and love and remember and want to think about, read again and again—never let go of, save in their memory.

In a solid story the reader experiences both surprise and the sense that the ending is inevitable—a glorious paradox of great storytelling—because we see the sort of person the character is come up against something that challenges him and we see ...

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In a solid story the reader experiences both surprise and the sense that the ending is inevitable—a glorious paradox of great storytelling—because we see the sort of person the character is come up against something that challenges him and we see him change, but he is still that living breathing person we have come to know. This happens as a kind of revelation that unfolds over the arc of the story. It is story's inexplicable gift.

In this chapter, I'll refer you to a story and a movie to discuss this craft issue: If you own the book Best American Short Stories of the Century, John Updike, editor, I suggest you read the masterpiece short story by Saul Bellow entitled "A Silver Dish." I know that one reader here, OllieRedfern owns this book—and, if you do join us, you should feel free to discuss the short story with me via comments. 

One of my short stories, "Sine Die" that won "The Prentice Hall Fiction Award" and was first published in Hayden's Ferry Review, Vol. 25, (fall-winter, 1999-2000) might be of some help. It appears in the second edition of my collection entitled The Woman Who Never Cooked and can be purchased quite inexpensively through the external link here

If you go to The New Yorker Magazine site and search for for "A Silver Dish"—you will be able to read the story on line. Here's what the link looks like http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/1978/09/25/a-silver-dish.

@BG_Davies and tells me he's not a subscriber and was able to read the story (said, "lots of ads") but all there. So try that if you don't have the anthology I am recommending.

For a flick, we've got the incomparable Elmore Leonard. He's written a book entitled Out of Sight and that book was made into a cool flick that's widely available. See the trailer that is the heading for this chapter.

 See the trailer that is the heading for this chapter

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