I read recently about an author who gave advice to a young student on how to write a story. I can’t remember the link, but this particular author said something along the lines of; ‘forget what they teach you at school about writing a story, and instead ask yourself three questions…’
- Who is the main character?
- What do they want more than anything in the world?
- How can you prevent them from getting that?
It struck me that this author was correct, and you can apply these three questions to almost every story out there today. So, I thought about a few books I have read and tried to answer these questions myself…
Harry Potter Series
- Main Character: Harry Potter
- Harry wants a normal life and to not be killed by Lord Voldemort.
- Voldemort is constantly trying to kill Harry Potter.
The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy
- Main Characters: Frodo Baggins & Samwise Gamgee
- Destroy The One Ring and return to The Shire.
- Must go on a massive, dangerous journey, and they are hunted down by every evil creature who wants The Ring of power.
Howl’s Moving Castle
- Main Character: Sophie
- Sophie wants to remove the curse put on her by The Witch of the Waste.
- As part of the curse, Sophie is unable to talk about her curse.
- Main Character: Bella Swan
- Bella wants to become a vampire.
- Vampires keep trying to kill her and Edward refuses to turn her.
Of course this only gives a basic outline of the story, but it is the perfect place to start. The majority of novels are more complex, many have multiple main characters, and wants/desires can change many times throughout a story. Sometimes the main character doesn’t even really have a particular want/desire and the story is simply something that just happens to them.
I have come to think of these questions as the Three Golden Questions, they are so simple, but powerful. Rather than writing a story and thinking about it as ‘the beginning, the middle and the end’, ask yourself the three questions at the top of this blog.