THE BODY OF “STORY”

The skeleton (PLOT) provides a structure upon which to build, its marrow rich with potential. It is not a rigid thing, but bends at the joints (SCENES) in a limitless variety of shapes and postures.

Tendons (STORY-CRAFT) hold the organism together so it can move where it will without falling apart.

The circulatory system delivers blood (EMOTION) to every tissue, courses with love, pulses with fear, flows with hope, shame, regret . . . and bleeds. Oh how it bleeds.

Muscles (CHARACTERS) move. They run, leap, march, stumble, dance, fold, and rest. They take your hand and invite you (READER) to join them, strong and reassuring, because if weak and insipid, they remain forever alone in their pages, their very existence threatened.

The throat, tongue, teeth and lips (VOICE) speak in all the variations of the human soul and psyche. When timid, they inspire a need to protect. When bold, they raise the spirit. A quiet whisper brings a tingle. A groan evokes dread. A murmur inspires a deep and needful longing. Quirkiness and irony shape a smile.

The nervous system (SETTING) provides the basis for sensation, the nuance of everything felt, the smells in buildings and forests, of paper and cream, the pungent reek of fear. The colors of light and water, a gibbous moon, a shiny beetle on a snapdragon stem, the coolness of night wafting across the skin, the sound of birds and quiet moans, the ripping terror of a distant scream.

Lungs (THEME) breathe a subtle current, the wisdom gained from successes, failures, and outcomes, the subtext of dialogue, the profound meanings of metaphor. They manage the flow of oxygen, which is the fuel of transformation (CHARACTER ARC).

The heart (CONFLICT) must pump. It is the engine that drives the body forward, at times calm but it also threatens to burst, beating a dire rhythm that walks, marches, or crawls unfailingly, to the end.

The brain (TECHNICAL) commands an army of words. Nouns and verbs are the elite force, their value unquestioned. Well chosen, few are needed to complete their mission. They make careful use of their support staff of Adjectives. Pronouns, while necessary, are always in danger of being dismissed to wait in their bunks until needed, while adverbs must fight for their right to exist on the page, and in a good story, they often lose.

Whether STORY is told while gathered at low fires, or rattling along battered landscape on the wheels of chariots, chugging in boxcars on the hobo’s lips, rustling in the pages of a cherished book, riding the static of ancient radios, sizzling on screens, or dancing the wireless electrons that permeate the modern world, it is a living organism that has been and will always be with us, as long as there is consciousness to give it life.

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