Quite often, when crafting a story, we may be limited on the time we have to tell. It is often necessary to "cut out" parts of the story that we "love". This can be difficult.
Recently, one of my students came to me and complained that she would not be able to perform her story in the required time limit of 5 - 8 minutes. She had "tried and tried, but just couldn't cut out any more" of her story. Each time I attempted to elicit what she might need to "let go of" she attempted to "tell" me all of the words of the story that she felt were necessary. I didn't want to hear the story, I wanted her to focus on the "elements" or "chunks" of the story. We seemed to be getting nowhere.
Her story was the recent Disney version of Sleeping Beauty, called, Maleficent. I wanted to ask her to tell me what the story was about in just a few sentences, sort of, "Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl." I hesitated, as I felt she still was not focusing enough. So I asked her to tell me in ONE sentence, what the story was about.
She thought for a moment and then said, "It's about how Maleficent's faith in humankind is restored." Great! That's the core, the essence. Now, rather than having to "cut down", we can build more from the inside out.
What questions do we need to answer in order to flesh out the narrative?
How is her faith restored? - Through Aurora's love and innocence.
- If her faith is restored, that means she lost it, or it was destroyed at some point.
How was it Destroyed? - She was betrayed by her lover and her wings were cut off.
How did she feel and what did she do? - She was enraged and she put a curse on his child, Aurora.
After the curse, why was she intrigued by or drawn to Aurora?
What brought about the next piece, etc.
As each question is answered, another piece of the story/puzzle unfolds until all of the questions are answered from beginning to end. Now, she has all of the important elements of the story and only has to decide how much description goes with each. She has built her story from the inside out vs. the other way around.
So, next time you are struggling with how to cut your story down, try the reverse. Try building it one step at-a-time from the inside out!