Every Story Needs a Reason: An Editorial Blurt

01 Oct

I’m close to wrapping up edits on a client’s fictionalized autobiography. It’s minimalistic in its storytelling style, forthright, and yet meandering on occasion. Yet, although I like this book, the ending is thin.

There’s a lot of shrugging and uncertainty, as well as stating of opinions and yet backing away, as if the writer is apologetic ahead of time to anyone who might disagree. (I’m eliminating much of the indecisive (and therefore boring) dialogue, and “but, y’know, I could be wrong” or “but that’s just me” kind of phrases that weaken the material.)

Why could I see the limp spine of the story, or the passive writing in need of a jolt of adrenaline, but couldn’t figure out why the ending is so — meh?

I headed downstairs this afternoon to fill my cup with fresh, hot tea, and that’s when I saw the problem: There’s a positive change in the lead character’s life, but there’s no transcendence.

Sure, the guy overcomes a crappy childhood, a weak and aimless youth, and a bout with addiction and alcoholism, and he’s definitely in a better place now, but–

What now?

And why did he finally decide that addiction was not the life for him?

Even in true-to-life stories, characters need a reason, a motive, and then action to back it up.

Otherwise, it’s not just the editor who’s falling asleep, but the audience is, too.

1 Comment

Posted by on October 1, 2014 in Books, Characters, Editing


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One response to “Every Story Needs a Reason: An Editorial Blurt

  1. Milo James Fowler

    October 5, 2014 at 6:55 am

    True that, Keanan. “What’s my motivation?” isn’t a question for actors alone.


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