A Pirate's Resources

Story Engine

Exercise 18 :: Story Engine :: What makes this story go?

This exercise, to me, is kind of a sum up of the previous few. In a nutshell, the story engine, like a car engine, is the thing that makes the story go. We define the story engine as the characters: character are the engine of every story. And we have seen this in the previous exercises and story chapters. Without the characters, nothing will happen. Without a character, there is no Act of Villainy, because the AoV requires someone to see it as such. And characters have character desires, and those desires lead the characters to act, and those actions create the plot, which allows the characters to solve the AoV and finish the story. Without the characters, the story doesn’t go anywhere. The choices a character makes (based on who they are and what they want and what they do) provide fuel for the story engine.

I won’t spend long on this. First Mate Manfred will lead your student through various mindstorming exercises to drive home the point - what a character wants leads them to act; a character’s actions reveal their desires; conflicting desires (within or among characters) leads to conflict; and conflict is a great fuel for the story engine.

Look back at the previous chapter. Certain monkeys haven’t seen the island through the golden telescope, and they don’t care (there is no AoV for them), and they just carry on. Others are straining to see the island, because that is their desire. Others have seen the island, desire to get there, and so are down in the hold, rowing to get there faster. Each of these characters is moving the story forward in a different way - without these characters, there is no movement (no engine) for the story.

Because characters (and their choices) are the
story engine, knowing more about the different characters and the roles they play, the functions they fill, is the next thing.

In Real Life :: consider the story engine in real life to be the accumulation of our own characterizations, desires, choices, and actions. Its what is in us that makes us act and move forward in our own stories. Without us, our story doesn’t happen. Using these different elements of us, and how they are revealed in our actions, allows us to see what story we are really telling, and make choices as to where the story will go next.

Finding it in the Story :: view this less in terms of the previous chapter (though your student can point to the monkeys who can see the island, and how that prompts them to certain responses, versus those who cannot), and more in terms of life and story in general. What are the choices that characters in the story are making (to obey the captain, to swab the deck, to eat the banana) that cause the story to move forward in some way?