The Six Task Model

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All the great stories in this universe boil down to one single, great idea. Plenty of ideas keep flitting in and out of an author's consciousness. A lifetime would not suffice to follow all the great ideas an author gets. Hence, an author should pursue that idea about which he/she is most passionate about.

Love and passion are what drive an author to write even when everything seems against them. A writing project or idea with which an author is personally attached offers the greatest promise of being completed.

There is a possibility that the author might have been very passionate about the idea when he/she began writing. But after a few thousand words and many chapters later, they might find out that the idea just wasn't right for them. At that moment, it might feel like a complete loss of effort and time.

However, an author should realize that writing anything can never be a waste of time or effort. An author constantly learns writing through three things- writing, writing, and constantly writing. The author must have learnt something in the process of finding out that an idea was not for him/her. This realization is no less than a discovery in itself.

There are several things an author could do before actually writing the story to determine if the idea they have in mind indeed has the scope they are anticipating. I propose the Six Task Model that I usually follow before writing my stories. I am using the very popular and well-known fairytale of Cinderella to illustrate my model.

Task 1: Write a single line that encapsulates your entire story idea; no additional frills, adjectives, long-winding phrases or beautiful prose. Keep it to the very bare minimum

Example: Cinderella

It is the story of how a girl called Cinderella,who is ill treated by her evil step-mother and two step-sisters, is befriended by a fairy godmother, finds her true love and marries him.

Task 2: Ask yourself questions based on your single line and answer them yourself in one or two lines. This exercise will clarify a number of things in your mind about your story idea.

Example: Cinderella

1) Who is Cinderella?
Cinderella is a young girl who lives with her step mother and two step sisters.

2) What do you know about Cinderella?
Cinderella is ill treated by her evil step-mother and two step-sisters who make her do all the chores. She is,however, not completely friendless as she has a fairy godmother who secretly helps her.

What does she seek?
Cinderella seeks love of which has been deprived.

Who prevent her from succeeding in her quest?
Cinderella's evil step-mother and two step-sisters prevent her from seeking her own happiness.

Who helps her in her quest?
Cinderella's fairy godmother helps her in her quest.

Does Cinderella succeed in her quest at the end?
Yes, at the end of the story Cinderella finds her true love and marries him.

Task 3:

Now describe all the characters in your story with one line each.

Example: Cinderella

1) Cinderella is a beautiful, young, docile, orphaned and lonely girl who is craving for love, affection, a sense of belonging and recognition which she finds in her one true love whom she marries at the end of the story after braving a number of obstacles in her path.

2) Cinderella's step-mother is a proud, haughty and middle-aged woman who hates Cinderella and constantly makes her do a lot of chores, gives her the leftover food to eat, the cold attic to sleep at night, and tries to prevent Cinderella from marrying the Prince because she is jealous of her step-daughter's good fortune.

3) The elder one of Cinderella's step-sisters is very rude, uncivil  and constantly taunted and bullied her, trying to make her feel like an outsider in the family, and attempts to snatch her true love by pretending to be Cinderella for whom the Prince was actually searching.

4) The younger one of Cinderella's step-sisters is kinder to her but she also competes and tries to snatch the Prince away from Cinderella.

5) Fairy godmother is a fairy who befriends friendless Cinderella, boosts her self-confidence and encourages her to follow her dreams, gives a beautiful gown and a pair of magic slippers which Cinderella wears and goes to the Royal ball where she meets the Prince of the kingdom and falls in love with him.

6) The Prince of Cinderella's kingdom is a kind, charming, polite and handsome young man who admires her and courts her at the Royal ball, and later searches for her throughout his kingdom with the help of a magic slipper which Cinderella leaves behind her in her hurry, finds her, marries her and lives happily ever after with her.

Task 4:

Describe the setting of your story or where it happens in one line.

Example: Cinderella

The story happens in an ancient kingdom.

Task 5:

Describe the timeline of your story or when it happens in one line.

Example: Cinderella

This story happens long, long ago in the distant, remote past.

Task 6:
Make a possible list of scenes that could figure in your story.

Example: Cinderella

1) A scene of Cinderella's sad life at home.
2) A scene of Cinderella with her step-mother.
3) A scene of Cinderella with her step-sisters.
4) The announcement of the Royal ball.
5) A scene highlighting Cinderella's fears and dilemmas.
6) A scene between Cinderella and her fairy godmother.
7) The fairy godmother helps Cinderella by giving her a beautiful gown and pair of magic slippers to wear for the Royal ball.
8) Cinderella arrives at the ball.
9) The Prince is stuck by Cinderella's beauty and begins courting her.
10) Cinderella forgets one of her magic slippers when she leaves home.
11) A kingdom wide search for the girl to whom the slipper belongs is held.
12) The step-mother and step-sisters try to cheat.
13) The step-mother and step-sisters fail in their attempt.
14) Cinderella wears the slipper and it fits her perfectly.
15) The Prince accepts Cinderella as his bride.
16) They marry each other and live happily ever after.

By the end of these six tasks, you would have identified who the protagonist of your story is, his/ her goal, their enemies, their allies, their conflict and the possible ending. It hardly takes a few pages to do this but it tells you quite a lot about your story idea. It is almost like looking at the nano level blueprint of your story. You can figure out many things like is the character of your protagonist strong, is their goal, need or quest believable, and is the conflict within the story strong and real.

Writing Challenge:
Choose a story idea of your own and perform all the six tasks listed above one after the other.

Author's Note:
There will be short assignments, writing tasks, questionnaires, surveys, forms, writing challenges within every chapter from now on. They are simply meant for writers who want to hone their craft and writing skills with further practice. It is not mandatory or compulsory for any of my readers to do what I have asked here.

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