Stories and the Story

This weekend I got to attend WOTS the Write on the Sound writers’ conference in Edmonds. Something I love about conferences is the hashing apart and analysis of plot, structure and character. What is the conflict in the story you are writing? 

At one workshop I attended the presenter listed five basic possible conflicts found in literature — man versus man, man versus society, man versus himself, man versus nature and man versus technology. 

At another workshop I attended a few years ago, these same conflicts showed up but that presenter also listed man versus God. But my favorite summary remains one I heard at that same conference: that all plots boil down to some variation of Girl Grows Up or Stranger Comes to Town. And when I stopped and analyzed my favorite books, I realized how true this was — even if simplified. Scarlett O’Hara, Dorothy, Jane Eyre, Lucy Pevensie, Anne of Green Gables? Girl Grows Up. The Hobbit, Treasure Island, Pride and Prejudice? Stranger Comes to Town. 

For years I’ve said that all stories are telling part of the One Story. So this weekend when I was thinking again about stories and the Girl Grows Up or Stranger Comes to Town model, I realized something. The history of the world – from creation to the fall and its aftermath – is the story of Girl Grows Up. Girl – creation – lost her innocence, became aware, got into a predicament. And the story from the coming of Jesus until now is Stranger Comes to Town. Jesus shows up on stage, completely unlike anyone we’ve ever met before and now all the rules are about to change…

In essence, Stranger Came to Town because Girl Grew Up. It is all One Story.

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