I'm still at the Santa Barbara Writers Conference and today brought one of those moments I live for--the AHA MOMENT. It was delivered by Catherine Ann Jones who is noted for lots of great screenplays and TV episodes including some for Touched By An Angel. What was my AHA MOMENT? It was that I needed to be able to go into my novel's story equipped with a clear understanding of the structure that I could distill into just 2 sentences. Sentence one should include: the title, the genre, introduce protagonist (good guy) and antagonist (bad guy), establish the scene (where it happens), and share the inciting incident. Sentence two needs to tell the story within the story, meaning what happens to take the protagonist through his or her story arc--the all important transformation. For example, the character could go from totally lacking self-confidence to being a strong leader. Working through writing those two sentences for the current YA novel I'm totally immersed in gave me fresh insights into what I've accomplished and made me think of things to tweak to make my characters and the plot their living in stronger.
Catherine shared something else that added to the AHA MOMENT for me. That is that the conflict of the story is made up of three concentric circles. The outermost circle is the external conflict that's in the story's world. Moving toward the center, the next circle is inter personal conflict--what's happening between characters. The innermost circle in the one of inner conflict--what's happening to the protagonist as he or she is transformed during the story. A good example is Casa Blanca. LOVE THAT MOVIE!!!! The external conflict is that the story is set in the middle of WW II. The second circle of conflict is between Bogart and Bergman. There are also some subplot conflicts here with secondary characters. The whole trying to get passage out of Casa Blanca. The innermost circle is Bogart's character's personal conflict. He became cynical when Bergman's character ran out on him in Paris. At the beginning of the movie all he cares about is himself and making money. At the end, he selflessly helps the woman he loves leave with another man. And, of course, Bogart gives us his famous quote about the lives of three little people not being important in the overall scheme of the war.
I hope reading this gave you an AHA MOMENT too. Think about it. And while you're at it watch Casa Blanca with these new insights in mind. Here's lookin' at you, friends!