Monday, October 20, 2008

Let us now praise John Truby

I love John Truby. Breathe, my novel that is coming out from Algonquin in 2010, was originally called Traveling Angels in homage to something he said about story structure. I revere his book on the Anatomy of Story, and for years I listened to his tapes not just because the information is so spot on, but because he has this incredibly calming voice. I also badgered him for a quote for my new novel, when it was called Traveling Angels and he was gracious and wonderful and kind enough to oblige.

While working on my new novel today, I realized that the major Truby points I return to time and time again are these (apologies to Truby if I muck this up. Truly, he says this so much better in his book, which everyone should run out and get, by the way):
1. Moral choices. A character is faced with two decisions, both of which carry a price tag. What he chooses tells us what kind of person he or she is and how he or she intends to live in the world.
2. The never ending story. You don't want to end your novel with everything all happy go lucky and tied up in a neat bow. The best stories seem to go on past the last page, making the reader wonder what might happen next.
3. Wants vs. needs. What does each character want desperately and how is that different from the deep psychological need that the character will realize later in the novel?

Those three points have become a kind of mantra for me, a lifeline that keeps me floating when my sea of pages threatens to drown me! Instead, thanks to Truby, I swim, still looking for my way, but swimming in a direction!


Clea Simon said...

very smart - it sounds like it's all about honing in on conflict!

Sorell Says... said...

I am going to meet John Truby at the L.A. screenwriting expo!! I volunteered, so I get to go for free!

Caroline said...

Oh, that is so lucky! Please tell John hello for me, and if his girlfriend Leslie is there, give her a big hug for me!