The ledge theory of storytelling.
By Wayne Hills
Put your main character on a precipice so that if they fall, they’re dead.
That cliff could be real, a physical or imaginary height. The fall would maim or kill them, or in the case of an emotional or fiscal abyss, ruin their life.
Your reader will have that thought in their mind throughout the story, always knowing that at any moment, it will be over for the character.
Good or evil, the story will be carried by that momentum.
Had a writer’s dream last night.
I was a writer in a ’50s era TV show. A weekly drama with a set cast that performed a different story every week.
I was teamed with a woman–who as best I can guess was a compilation of several female friends in the FB writer’s groups I’m in.
Although I usually dream in color, everything was black and white. Dressed as characters in the shows from that era–she in a long-sleeved full length dress, while I wore a solid grey suit with a white shirt and tie–we were collecting checks for the past week and were trying to find inspiration for the next week’s story.
I was then in a car driving to the Hollywood Sheraton. The car is a 1954 Pontiac Star Chief–I’m using this car in a story I’m writing in my non-dreaming life. The Sheraton, must be Hollywood because that’s where I was dreaming to be, and the Sheraton because I was just at one yesterday on a rescue transport.
I pulled in the front entrance to the hotel which had a small strip mall as part of the parking lot.I parked near the back of the mall and entered a small nondescript office, and this is why I’m sharing this dream.
The office’s interior resembled a stereotypical doctor’s waiting room, several chairs and couches, unmarked doors spaced throughout the room. Sitting on the furniture were faceless people, their clothes and skin the same shade of fuzzy gray. More of these, blank-slate people, were milling about, entering doors, coming out of others. They weren’t doing anything.
I was studying them, trying to figure out why they were there? Why were two sitting together, and why were others apart? What was in the doors? What were they thinking? Why did they HAVE to be here?
I started yelling at them.
“I need a story. Don’t just sit there.”
I ran up to one and screamed in it’s blank face.
“Do something compelling.”
Then I woke up.
I peeked behind the curtain of my mind and have seen what happens when I ask my muse to show me a movie that I can write a story about.
Thought I’d share this, at the very least maybe my future therapist can use it to explain my condition.