Who’s Driving the Story?

by Fay Lamb

As the Tactical Editor, I use the analogy of a car to describe the elements of fiction. So, when I saw this topic, I couldn’t resist writing about it.

For me, it’s not just the “who” driving the story but the “what.”

In my car analogy, I explain that plot is the vehicle that drives the story. Without a main plot, the author isn’t going anywhere at all. The road upon which the plot vehicle travels is the genre. So, of course, the plot vehicle must be equipped for the journey with devices like suspense or mystery, full-on terror, or maybe a scenic route with bumps in the road. The main plot drives the road from Point A to Point Z. Minor plots are all intersecting roads, but make no mistake, all intersecting roads lead to Point Z.

Conflict is the fuel for the vehicle. If the plot vehicle isn’t filled with the proper fuel, the story is going to sputter and halt, and the readers are going to get out and walk away. Conflict must build in each scene until its resolution at the end of the story. A reader must, therefore, measure the amount of fuel necessary to reach the end of the journey, taking into account those scenes in which more conflict—or fuel—is needed.

Then there are the actual drivers. These are each character with a point of view (POV)—one POV per scene and in most stories, no more than three POVs per book. A character takes the wheel for the scenes that belong to him or to her and moves the story forward as the conflict puts up roadblocks to prevent the character from reaching the desired destination.

When the journey has been reached and the conflict has been emptied from the tank, the characters will get out of the journey and start a well-earned vacation.


Writing Prompt: Start a story, using the photograph above. Remember that the vehicle drives the story. The driver is the POV character. Why is the car parked in that location? Who was driving it? What happened to them?


Click to Tweet: “If the plot vehicle isn’t filled with the proper fuel, the story is going to sputter and halt, and the readers are going to get out and walk away.” Who’s Driving the Story? Via @InspiredPrompt and @FayLamb #amwriting #MondayMotivation

2 thoughts on “Who’s Driving the Story?

  1. Great post! Until now I had never thought about wearing my characters out so that they need a vacation by the time they “drive” through the story, but I like that visual image in my head. Thanks so much for sharing this!

  2. Kristy: Yes. The fun thing about it is that while you’re wearing out your characters, your readers are getting a great escape.

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