6 questions, story, writing tips for authors

If You Can’t Answer These 6 Questions Stop Writing! You Don’t Have A Story And This Is Why…

If You Can’t Answer These 6 Questions You Don’t Have A Story  

the 6 questions to ask in storytelling, without these 6 questions you don't have a story

 

If you struggle, like I do sometimes, with whether or not you’re writing a good story, these 6 questions from Glenn Gers will help.

I’m subscribed to the youtube channel Film Courage because they interview a lot of screenwriters (and other genre of writers) to get their take on the process of writing.

I find most of what they discuss Highly informative.

So, to that point, I’m including their interview with Glenn Gers who discusses the 6 questions you need to ask to determine if you have a real story or not.

Glenn Gers is known for:

  • Disfigured (2008)
  • Fractured (2007)
  • Like, Share, Follow (2017)
  • A novel entitle Homeland: Phantom Pain – narrated by Damian Lewis who played Lt. Brody on the hit TV series Homeland

Below are the questions the interviewer asked and then Glenn’s answer in quotes. When I throw my 2 cents the text is in Red. 

 

Film Courage Asks: How do you define story and how do you teach it to clients and students?

Glenn Gers replies:

“I think the basic idea of a story is going to be that you are following a character or characters. It is entirely possible to tell a story of multiple characters.

You don’t only have to tell one person’s story. It’s nice, you can do it, but it’s also possible to tell a story with 11 main characters. It takes a lot of work.

You have to follow each main character and follow their story all the way through the narrative.

But in fact, I believe any story is really about how a character trying to accomplish something runs into other people who either help or harm their intention.

It’s sort of like Isaac Newton’s theory of the billiard balls that once they get set in motion they will roll in that same direction because they are being pushed by a physical force.

I think a character is also doing that.

They are trying to get somewhere and they are rolling in a certain direction until either they hit something or something comes along and knocks into them and then that changes their direction.

But they are still trying to get to that one place. The physics kind of falls apart there because billiard balls aren’t trying to get anywhere.

But the idea that things are moving until they run into something else which is also moving is sort of how characters work.

Every character thinks they are the main character. If you have your hero walk into a hotel and try and get a hotel room, that hotel clerk, they think they are the center of the movie because they are the center of their story.

And this person coming up to them is either getting in their way or they are trying to charm them or whatever it is that they are doing, they are trying to do something. And that interchange is the basic building blocks of story.

That’s what you call dramatic action. Someone trying to accomplish something which mostly involves interacting with other people.

Sometimes the action can be I have to take this suitcase and put it on a train, whatever. But it will still be I have a thing I am trying to accomplish and that’s what story is. I have a thing I am trying to accomplish.

I am a character and I need to get this thing and it will be a more interesting story if there is something in the way.

If I am a character and I am trying to put a suitcase on a train and I go and I put it on the train and nothing happens, it’s a very short, boring story.

If they are carrying a suitcase and another person comes and they steal the suitcase, it’s more of an interesting story. And it’s a more interesting story if that person has got something important in the suitcase.

If it’s just a suitcase they can say, oh, somebody stole it, oh well, I’ll go get another one. Not that strong a story.

Every story is about a character trying to accomplish something and having an obstacle. And what they do, what action they take in the face of the obstacles, is your story.

The obstacles don’t have to be external. The obstacle can be I am really afraid of the train station.

I need to get this suitcase to my uncle and he is going to be at the other end of the train so I have got to get this suitcase onto the train but I am terrified of loud noises.

That’s a story.

The only obstacle is in there, but it’s real. So every character is facing obstacles.

The obstacles don’t have to be physical. They don’t have to be another character. They just have to be something that is getting in the way of them trying to accomplish something that is important to them.”

 

 

Film Courage asks: Can you explain how a basic 6 questions or more informs the choices a writer makes in their writing process?

Glenn Gers replies:

“Writing is a process of questions. More than 6 questions, but important questions.

There are a couple of things that I wish I could get tattooed on the inside of people’s eyelids so they knew….

Think in scenes and writing is a process of questions.

It’s not a thing you have to fill out. It’s not a form that you have to fit into.

Writing is a question, is always a process of having something. It could be just I want to write a western or I want to talk about how love hurts or I want to talk about how love saved my life.

Whatever it is that you start with then you start to ask questions. How am I going to tell this story? Am I going to tell it through a character who gets it or a story that doesn’t get it?

Everything is going to be a choice. Every question that you ask is going to be a choice.

Every question that you ask if you write down that question, how am I going to tell this story? Who is the main character?

Everything is a question and those questions are who is it about? What do they want? Why can’t they get it?

What do they do about that? And how does it end? I think I skipped one. Oh, why doesn’t that work? Right. Who is it about? What do they want? Why can’t they get it? What do they do about that? Why doesn’t that work?

How does it end?

I did a whole video on this called the six essential questions. The 6 questions.

So I explained it better there.

But those six questions basically will help you write anything. They’ll help you write a movie or help you write a video game.

They’ll help you write a series because that’s the essential thing that you get of how am I going to turn whatever feeling or idea I have into a story is a person who is trying to do something, to get something and there’s something in the way and then eventually something will end it.

Either the end will be I don’t get it or I do get it. And whatever they do that they had never tried before is how it ends.

Because if they had tried it before it would end before. So who’s it about? What do they want? What do they do? Why doesn’t that work? What do they finally do?

What is the end? That’s storytelling. And it can work for three acts or 27 acts or one act. It always works. It’s my go-to set of questions. And then just keep asking questions.

Who is it about? It’s about a plumber. Where is he from? Just ask who? What? Why? Where? And just keep asking why. Why is he afraid of heights? Why does he love this particular person?

Every time you ask a question and you get a specific answer you’re moving closer to writing a scene.”

 

 

REMEMBER THE 6 QUESTIONS

 

the 6 questions to ask in storytelling, without these 6 questions you don't have a story

 

 

Film Courage asks: What’s the easiest way for someone to figure out an enjoyable writing process for themselves?

Glenn Gers answer:

“The first important thing about your process is recognizing that it’s yours.

That there is not a right or wrong way. Some people write at night, some people write in the day, some people write in short bursts, some people write in long extended bursts. There is no particular better or worse process.

The important thing about a process is it’s something that you can do relatively easily for whatever reason it works for you. And that means you have to spend time paying attention to yourself, trying different things and seeing which ones work and which ones don’t work and being really honest about that.

I personally…I keep doing that, sorry…I personally turn out to write very well in short bursts. I thought I should do more because when I’m writing in a short burst it’s like holy crap if I could keep doing this for eight hours I’d be a miracle.

But I can’t. And I would sit there and I would grind. After the burst was running down I would grind and not only would that be unproductive and begin to be disheartening but I would start to undo my good work.

Because when you start to grind in a bad way you start to doubt, you start to feel bad and you say well I must be feeling bad because this work is bad.

Which is not necessarily the case. It could be that your process is bad. So, what I would do is I would write something really good and then I would grind until I was unhappy and then I would say oh that sucks and then I would write something over it and destroy my own good work.

It took me a long time to pay attention to the fact that I do really well in short bursts.

And if I stop when I feel myself starting to lose it and take a break, take a walk, do exercises, whatever, I can then come back and do another short burst.

Getting myself to sit down again is rough but that’s the thing I had to teach myself by paying attention to what worked.

I’ve gotten much more productive since I learned my process.

It’s not for everyone.

(Although asking the 6 questions to determine if you have a real story or not IS!)

Everyone will have a process that’s dependent on their own inner mechanisms and on their own reality. Some people only have free time on weekends.

Some people only get a little bit of free time in the evenings and so they have to find a way to work at the time that they are allowed by their life.

You have to pay attention to reality and pay attention to your own inner working and the best way to find out is to do it and see how it goes.

It’s always better to try and do some work and see how it goes.

You’ll never get to the place where you absolutely know that you can write and then you start writing. It’s always a question of let me try this and see what comes out. That’s the best test of a process.”

 

Film Courage asks: And working these temp jobs for many other reasons aside from income and the study of people helped you realize that was your preferred style?

Glenn Gers answered:

“It forced me because I’m stubborn and I would just keep doing the wrong thing over and over again until circumstances forced me to work in short bursts and then I was like wow, that actually is better.

Trying to be open to your process, trying to pay attention to what actually makes the work good, what feels good.

Feeling good is overrated.

Like the fact that you have to learn to write when you don’t feel good.

For me, having a process that I can say I always have five basic documents that I open like an outline, a place where I write notes, the text itself and a sort of overview.

I’m going to be doing a video on this actually soon but that’s my personal setup.

Everyone has their own.

But what you need to be able to do is to get a process that works for you. Some people will do it on their phone. Some people will do it, not for me my own organization, but that they’re already in the process. One of the at risk cases. not an aha moment, it was an aha couple of years.

I think that’s actually sort of a misleading thing that our culture has developed from movies, that there’s a decisive moment and after it you are always changed. In stories that is a very important thing.

You need decisive moments when people are changed, but in truth it’s more like a series. (And keep asking the right 6 questions)

I have a couple seasons where I get a little bit of it, then I fall back into my old ways, and then I have some reward or I think of something new. It’s a process in which you try to do two steps forward, one step back instead of the other way around because you’re trying to head forward. You do a little forward, you fall back, you go a little forward.

And the main way it always is, the doing of it. Just throw something on the paper even if it’s just, and I have done this, I’ve written a scene where I say this is the scene where he comes home and is miserable.

And I just took it out of the outline and I wrote it into the script because the next time I look at it I now am familiar with this process. I say okay, I created a scene.

The scene is a description, this is where he comes home and is miserable. Now I have to think okay, how do we see that he’s miserable? Ask a question. We see he’s miserable because he takes his dinner out of the refrigerator and throws it on the wall.

Each thing that you get when you ask a question, to me it’s always a process of questions and a process of writing down the answer. Now I have a scene where a guy comes in, opens his fridge, throws his dinner against the wall.

Okay, we know he’s miserable. Now I can add a couple of lines, move on to the next scene. Everything that you can do to put a little something down to create a bit of something for your creativity to hang on to, that’s for me the essence of the writing process.

So if this were a movie then it would show Glenn as a temp and you know, all right Charlie have a good weekend and then you had like a half hour and then the music plays and you realize wow, this is it and here I am writing it.

I actually think what we would do in that case is we would show that we would cut to the imaginary scene, we would play it out and so we would get to catch the thrill of the creation by seeing the created magic of this character in the scene.

Oh so… Yeah, I’m sorry I’m writing now.

No, I love it, I love it. So Glenn is the writer… I’m sitting there writing and we cut to or dissolve to.

By the way, that’s a little thing. Most of the time, A, don’t ‘write cut to’. William Goldman started it. It’s a delightful thing in his scripts.

Obviously they’re going to cut to. How else are they going to get there? You’re wasting page space. Don’t say ‘cut to’. And most of the time, don’t say ‘dissolve to’ or ‘fade out’ or anything else because that’s their decision.

Unless it’s really important that you dissolve, just write the next scene and they’ll figure out how to get there.”

To watch the full video of Film Courage interview with Glenn Gers who answers the 6 questions you need to determine if you have a story, see below…

https://youtu.be/uL0atQFZzL8

As one last reminder the 6 Questions to ask to see if you have a story are:

the 6 questions to ask in storytelling, without these 6 questions you don't have a story

For other inspiring writers tips go here…
https://thewritersnexus.com/category/author-tips-quotes/

To learn more about Renee’s coaching for creatives go here…

https://thewritersnexus.com/cognitive-behavioral-coaching-coach

writers perspective

Sharpening Your Writers POV – Know the Difference Between Intention & Perspective

 

Writing is all about perspective.

 

It’s you and the words and that’s it.

Unlike meeting someone in person or even speaking on the phone, where we engage most of our senses in the communication, it’s just the reader and your words.

 

That’s why the words you use and how you string them together make all the difference in your writing.

To make those strings of words as effective as possible, you must have a clear perspective.

 

Perspective is Different than Intention

 

writers perspective, writers intention

 

Intention is important when you want to persuade.

 

Perspective is about your philosophy as a writer.

 

Do you know what your philosophy is?

 

If not ask yourself some of these questions;

 

  • What’s really important to you to get across as a writer?
  • What’s important to you as a creative person?
  • What’s important to you as a member of the human race on this planet?
  • What parts of your culture or society interests you in an intense way?
  • What do you value in terms of a person’s character?

 

These are the types of questions to have the answers to when talking about your writer’s perspective.

Now, let’s break it down.

 

There are specific elements to your perspective we want to focus on and rein in to communicate the most effectively through your writing.

These elements are:

1. ENERGY = Desires/Emotions/Spirit

2. CONNECTIONS = Commonalities/Relationships

3. PHYSICALITY = Bodies/Environment

 

 

Energy.

 

The very stuff of our existence. Life is energy.

Desires are all about the Life force. To want is to be human.

 

So, whenever you get stuck, ask yourself what do you want your reader to get from this story? This scene? This chapter?

 

Translate these questions into what your characters want. What are their desires in the overall scheme of their lives?

You can give your characters any type of desires you want. The stronger the better. This will offer the deepest possible well of creation to draw from.

Strong emotion is a sign of connection, attachment and desire.

 

In addition, understanding your own desires and emotions will help you tap into those of your characters. The energy of your characters’ desires is the catalyst for truthful action.

There must be a “why” behind the emotion.

 

As in life, the strength of desire inspires a person to take some type of action. The why behind the emotion will get your characters moving.

Frankly, it’s not much of a journey if your characters don’t go somewhere and do something of consequence.

 

This is especially true in our modern world.

In the new millennium storytelling is almost all about action.

 

Important Tip:

Don’t underestimate how much energy the creative process uses.

Manage your own energy well. Remember to breath. Still your mind before writing.

The farther you reach into your imagination to find a fresh idea, the more energy its going to take. Be prepared for this.

 

#2 CONNECTIONS = Commonalities/Relationships

Connections, are the things we have in common. Whether a connection is as tenuous as a name that sounds familiar or so solid everyone in the neighborhood knows who you are, connections elevate any story.

 

For example; I’m lost. I enter a gas station to ask for directions. I ask the guy behind the counter where the town’s main library is. He says down the road and take a left.

 

Now, what would make this innocuous encounter more interesting are connections.

It continues…

 

The gas station guy says, “Oh so, you must be a big reader?”

I say, “Well yeah, I like to read and I write too. I’m doing research for my book.” The gas station guy says, “Really? What kinda book are you writing?”
“It’s a novel about two sisters who inherit their mother’s haunted house.” “Spooky.”

“Yeah. And it seems this town has some haunted buildings. Supposedly there are few books in the town library about it,” I explained.

“Oh, well, you must be talking about Shellings Manor, the old mental institution at the north end of town. Yeah, that place’ll raise the hairs on the back of y’er neck. Got lost in there one night on a dare and damn near lost my mind,” the young, sandy-haired man looked down and shook his head suddenly looking a lot older.

So I asked, “Really? Would you be willing to talk about it? I’d love to hear your story. I could do my best Katie Couric.”

 

Do you see what’s happened here?

An ordinary encounter has revealed many connections. Physical connections, human connections, emotional connections and they’ve been revealed through dialogue, character thoughts and some action.

Just keep looking for the connections between the characters, their desires and their environment and you’ll keep the storyline moving.

 

#3 PHYSICALITY = Bodies/Environment

Having a clear description in your mind of your character is very important.

It will help you develop their personalities and their actions.

Once you have the details of your character’s appearance developed, delve into your imagination and think what it might be like to experience the world through their body.

If you need help, ask someone who is physically similar as your character.

Having a clear picture in your mind of the physicality of your characters and their surrounding geographical elements will help you write vivid, detailed characters and environments.

Doing research is a large part of any fiction or non-fiction writer’s work.

 

TO RECAP…

recap writers blog, perspective in writing, intentional writing

 

Keep these 3 things in mind when you write and will sharpen your writer’s POV and increase the effectiveness of your storytelling;

 

1. ENERGY = Desires/Emotions/Spirit —> Know the depths of your characters and yourself!

 

2. CONNECTIONS = Commonalities/Relationships — How do your characters know each other?

 

3. PHYSICALITY = Bodies/Environment – Be clear on what your characters and their surroundings look like

Now go out there and write like you want to change and influence some minds!

 

 


If you ‘d like to have your work developmentally edited or beta read I can help.

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If you liked this you might like these;

The 4 Horsemen of the Writers Apocalypse

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How To Write A Children’s Book

Additionally…. Writer’s Digest has a good page on a writer’s perspective here…

4 perspectives, writers apocalypse, copywriter, persuasive copy, creative storytelling

The 4 Horsemen of The Writers Apocalypse – The 4 Perspectives Every Writer Must Master

 

I like intensity in writing.

I’m no religious scholar, but I’d say the Bible is intense.

With that said, I’m likening what I feel are the 4 perspectives a writer MUST develop, with the 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

 

So let’s dive into this two thousand year old text and establish what the 4 horses of the apocalypse are about…

 

The 4 Horseman are found in The Book of Revelation.

There’s good reason for that.

The Book of Revelation is essentially a letter of tremendous encouragement.

A man named John (not identified as the apostle) had a vision from heaven.

The Book of Revelation is John’s record of that vision (Revelation 1:9-11).

 

Briefly, Revelation was written as a letter to be circulated among the Christian churches in seven important cities.

These cities were located in Asia Minor which was part of the Roman Empire; known now as Turkey.

At the time, Romans were killing and persecuting Christians.

John’s vision offered encouragement and assurance that God was still in control.

John’s letter stated that the forces of evil, (the Roman Empire) would eventually be destroyed by God.

This indeed happened.

 

To sum up, The Book of Revelation offers comfort and encouragement to those of faith saying that God is in charge and promises to end evil forces.

Now on to the Four Horsemen…  

 

THE FIRST HORSEMAN…

“Now I watched when the Lamb opened one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures say with a voice like thunder, “Come!”

And I looked, and behold, a white horse! And its rider had a bow, and a crown was given to him, and he came out conquering, and to conquer.

writers apocalypse, writers block, writers work, writers help,

THE PERSPECTIVE

This first rider on the White Horse can be interpreted as embodying conquest, false prophets and false teachings

As part of my Writers Apocalypse, the White Horse is YOU the writer.

All writing is storytelling to some extent to another.

Most of that storytelling will have a mix of imagination and exaggeration.

Even if the storytelling is a news article, it still has to rely on the telling by an individual. And we know, that a human can not be 100% accurate 100% of the time.

The storyteller, in some degree, is the false prophet looking to conquer his reader with his falehoods.

 

THE SECOND HORSEMAN…

When he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!”

And out came another horse, bright red. Its rider was permitted to take peace from the earth, so that people should slay one another, and he was given a great sword.

writers apocalypse, writers block, writers work, writers coach

THE PERSPECTIVE

The 2nd horseman rides a Red Horse. This horseman represents the violence of warfare.

The Red Horse represents The Protagonist.  

Why? Because there is an aspect of battle that goes on between the protagonist and his environment.

You as the writer, must be able to get in the protagonist’s head. See the story from his/her POV.

You want to write a character the reader roots for and who they want to see meet the battle head on… and then win.

So for the 2nd horsemen on the Red Horse, the protagonist must be like the warrior going into battle; an enigmatic character fighting for his life and a cause he believes in.

 

 

THE THIRD HORSEMAN…

When he opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come!”

And I looked, and behold, a black horse! Its rider had a pair of scales in his hand.

And I heard what seemed to be a voice in the midst of the four living creatures, saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius, and do not harm the oil and wine!”

THE PERSPECTIVE

The third horseman rides a Black Horse. The scales he carries indicate balance and scarcity.

The 3rd horseman on the Black Horse, are the Supporting Characters.

The key elements of scarcity and balance add drama.

Understand the supporting characters point if view will either create the scarcity or put the protagonist out of balance or conversely, help him/her come back into balance aplenty.

The Black Horse and his rider see the protagonist from the supporting characters view points.

 

THE FOURTH HORSEMAN…

When he opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, “Come!”

And I looked, and behold, a pale horse! Its rider’s name was Death, and Hades followed him.

And they were given authority over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by wild beasts of the earth.” ~ Revelation 6:1-8

writers apocalypse, writers block, writers work, writers coach

THE PERSPECTIVE

The 4th Horseman of the Writers Apocalypse rides a Pale Horse. This horseman’s name is DEATH.

This 4th horseman represents The Reader.

Ultimately, it’s the reader who decides if your writing is worth reading or not.

It may be a great story.

However, if your reader doesn’t think so…. you’re dead.

Think of your reader and how they have prepared and even sacrificed for this encounter.

After years of learning to read and write the reader has decided to take their hard earned training and spend it on your writing.

They are a worthy opponent.

Do not underestimate them.

For if you do they will surely come back with a death blow.

The death sentence for any writer. Closing the book. Exiting the pdf.

Walking away from the device.

You’re dead to them.

 

Well, that was certainly apocalyptic, wouldn’t you say?

 

So let’s take a quick recap:

The 1st horseman of the Writers Apocalypse rides a White Horse.

This horseman is YOU. (Your PERSONAL PERSPECTIVE)

The 2nd horseman of the Writers Apocalypse rides a Red Horse.

This horseman is your MAIN CHARACTER (PROTAGONIST)

(The HERO’S PERSPECTIVE)

The 3rd horseman of the Writers Apocalypse rides a Black Horse.

This horseman is your SUPPORTING CAST (AND ENVIRONMENT)

The 4th horseman of the Writers Apocalypse rides a Pale Horse.

This is your READER. Please your reader. Make your story CLEAR & Interesting or they will put down the book, close the pdf and walk away.

 

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