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The Central Question and the Role of the Story

David Gane
David Gane
1 min read

Often in a story, a character is presented with a central question, and the story will test them.

Perhaps at the start, a character holds a particular belief, such as they must sacrifice everything for their career.

In the journey through the story, perhaps they consider an alternative: You can have a career and a romantic relationship.

There will be plenty of voices on both sides, each with its subtle viewpoint:

  • you can only have a relationship.
  • you can only have a career.
  • you can have a relationship and a career but can't give it all to both.
  • You can't have either.

There'll be as many choices as the writer can come up with.

Eventually, the story must build to a climax and resolve this central question. Whatever the outcome, this is the answer.

In this case, the story dictates you can't give everything to a career and have a relationship. The relationship is destroyed, and the career continues.

Yet, this doesn't mean this is the final outcome because as long as this story can return, there's a possibility for a different answer. Perhaps a solution that no one's yet considered.

And this is the role of the hero of the story. To navigate all the possibilities. To find hope, only to be shipwrecked by the story's machinations. But eventually, hopefully, they'll find their way through the labyrinth and find an option no one's considered on the other side.

And this is the role of the story. To guide us and shed light on how to live within this world. To give us the safety and guardrails of the story so that we don't have to suffer light the hero and only find the truth on the other side.


David Gane Twitter

Co-writer of the Shepherd and Wolfe young adult mysteries, the internationally award-winning series, and teacher of storytelling and screenwriting.


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