Have you ever taken ‘time out’ to try to encapsulate what your life is “all about”? Of course, it doesn’t need to be “about” anything, but at the same time, since you like everyone else have a Life Story, then there is a meaning and a message to YOUR story that is uniquely important, if only to you. This week’s Life Paths for Better Endings topic is about a way to uncover the underlying significance of your own Story and the potential benefits of claiming a personal Narrative Statement.
What I’ll call a Narrative Statement is known to authors as a “Throughline” or a “Logline”. E.G.:
The throughline is an invisible thread that binds your story together. It comprises those elements that are critical to the very heart of your tale — these elements needn’t be the same for every story you tell but should remain the same throughout a given story. (Shot through the Heart: Your Story’s Throughline / Terrible Minds, by Chuck Wendig, http://terribleminds.com/ramble/)
To begin, let’s look at some fictional stories or mythic tales to explore how narrative statements can function to make a story cohesive and well-focused on the key protagonists’ character arcs and plotlines. Writers know they should be able to boil down their story into one brief, tense statement, usually one sentence that fully encapsulates the story in terms of characters, goals, oppositions and outcomes. Here are some feasible narrative throughlines just as a practice in devising narrative statements (though of course the authors would do a better job):
- An orphaned boy discovers on his 11th birthday that he is a “wizard”, destined to master the positive potentials of magical abilities along with a cohort of friends, in order to thwart the evil rise to power of the megalomaniac wizard fiend who killed his parents.
- After witnessing UFOs firsthand a man becomes obsessed with replicating a mental image that turns out to be a UFO landing site to which he is being telepathically called by an alien race aiming to bring an Earth representative to their home world for interplanetary communication.
Here are some actual throughlines I have found online that are associated with well-known stories:
Sleepless in Seattle: A recently widowed man’s son calls a radio talk-show in an attempt to find his father a partner.- Written by Murray Chapman <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Oedipus Rex: Sophocles’ most famous work about the King of Thebes (translated here by Dudley Fitts and Robert Fitzgerald) tells the simple tale of boy gets parents, boy loses parents, boy gets new parents, boy kills biological father and marries biological mother. http://www.pghcitypaper.com/pittsburgh/throughlines-oedipus-rex/Content?oid=1675058
The Wizard of Oz: After a twister transports a lonely Kansas farm girl to a magical land, she sets out on a dangerous journey to find a wizard with the power to send her home. (from Gideon’s Screenwriting Tips: So Now You’re a Screenwriter…Tips to Improve your Film and TV writing and Your Career/ Writing Effective Loglines. http://gideonsway.wordpress.com/2012/03/10/writing-effective-loglines/)
I invite you for the next few days to practice writing narrative throughlines for some fictional stories that matter to you. This practice will prepare you to develop a throughline or narrative statement encapsulating your own Life Story, later this week. So first, I encourage you to practice the method!
- What do you find yourself emphasizing about the stories you choose to write loglines for?
- What does the very fact that you can write a logline, even for what might be a rather complicated story, say about stories or about storytelling in general?
Throughlines or loglines are essential for writers. They are the very heartbeat of a story. In editing, it is often said that every line or even every word in a manuscript should propel or develop the logline; else, remove it! Hold that thought in relation to devising—later this week—a throughline for your own Life Story. What might be some implications? Stay tuned…
As always, thank you for reading and I invite you to play in this life mapping sandbox!
Your Comments and Stories are welcome!