Monday, October 29, 2012

Where's the (story) beef?

Showing my age here, but there were several Wendy's commercials some time ago, with a grandma asking "where's the beef?" To refresh your memory, I've pasted one from YouTube below.
 

The "Where's the beef" lady isn't seduced by the fine bun, the clean presentation, or even the tidy condiments. She won't settle for less than the real thing, and she's not going to swallow her discontent and walk away. She wants a juicy hamburger.


Give that lady a burger!

Same is true with your story. You can dress up the characters in all their finery and quirks, but if you're not going anywhere with these characters, your customers/readers will not be satisfied.

I'm not saying your book has to be plot-heavy. The plot should be, in my opinion, character-driven. That means the main character(s) better have clear goals, motivations, and conflicts, and these should be relevant, even essential, to the plot.

Though it's hard to talk about plot independently, a strong plot should have obstacles that keep the character from reaching their goal until the story payoff at the end of the book. Each of these obstacles should challenge the character to change/grow or at a minimum, put the character into a jam.

The more you flesh out these obstacles and the more your character reacts to the circumstances, the bigger the beef. Sync plot to character change from start to finish and you'll have satisfied readers!

Maggie Toussaint
www.maggietoussaint.com

A murder story was every reporter’s dream - Molly in Murder in the Buff


18 comments:

  1. Yes! Go big. A puny character is not worth his/her salt--just like a puny hamburger. I like it. Now, to test you captchas. Ugh.

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    1. My apologies about the captcha code. The spammers have found me and it isn't pretty. Maybe they will move on to greener fields soon.

      Boy, do I want a hambuger for dinner now. I can just smell it...

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  2. Replies
    1. Great minds think alike! Hamburgers and good stories and the best.

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    2. Thanks for a visual on this concept. Not many of us remember the old beef lady anymore! :-)

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    3. Rolynn, I hadn't thought of that lady in ages, but I woke up on Monday with that phrase on my mind. I'm never one to waste an inspiration! Thanks for the visit.

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  3. Great post, Maggie. I learned a year or so ago an easy way to lay-out my GMC, called the one sentence test. One can do it for a character, plot, or chapter to keep ontrack.

    Heroine/hero wants _____(goal) because _____(motivation), but _______(conflict).

    The conflict is anything that prevents your character from attaining his/her goal. This simple little sentence was a great help to me--lady of the simple mind--to make sure everything was clear. I could now ask myself if this conflict was strong enough to sustain my chapter or story.

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    1. Right on, Vonnie. Yay GMC! Rolynn

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    2. You're spot on with GMC, Vonnie. I use those GMC oneliners as a truth test for each scene and chapter. If the character's inner or outer goals, motivations or conflicts aren't addressed, there is no point to the scene or chapter.

      So nice to have you visit! Come again! You too, Rolynn!

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  4. Thanks for replaying that funny commercial. I rather miss it.

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    1. I think I was dreaming about beef because I'm trying to lose weight. Protein is so essential to my feeling of fullness, plus protein will hold off hunger longer than most carbs, for me anyway. Thanks for the visit.

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  5. How creative to relate writing to that commercial. I haven't heard that phrase in years.

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    1. Hi Lisa,

      I'd love to claim absolute credit for the idea, but the truth is that it came to me out of the story ether as I was waking up. But you know what? Sometimes when I'm judging writing contests I feel a lot like that little old lady saying "where's the beef?"

      Thanks for weighing in!

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  6. Great post. That used to be my favorite commercial

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    1. Hi Marian,

      I'm glad you enjoyed this blast from the past. My sense of humor is more aligned to this type of message than some of the humorists today.

      Thanks for the visit!

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  7. I agree with everything you say. I so fed up with 'empty' books

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    1. Hi Jenny,

      Hear, hear. I believe we have a quorum. Down with empty books!

      Thanks for stopping in.

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  8. Wonderful post and using the Where's the Beef analogy, brilliant:)

    Thanks for sharing Maggie,

    Sara

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