I admit it.
I’m not always the sharpest knife in the drawer.
What’s worse, it often takes repeated trips to the whet stone to sharpen me up.
I was reminded of that fact yet again this week.
I have never been a ‘big picture’ sort of person. Details are where my interest lies.
So when I started hearing fellow writers talking about The Big Picture or The Moral Premise or Take Away Value, I wasn’t sure exactly what they meant. Nor could I see why it was important if the details of the story were in place. I read the books and did the exercises and was still left scratching my head. What are these guys talking about?
I’ve studied the Snowflake method created by Randy Ingermanson. I’ve read about story engineering by Larry Brooks. I’ve talked to other authors and to my husband, but a solid understanding of the ‘take away value’ of a story has never gelled in my mind.
Now, it’s so clear that I can’t believe I didn’t get it before. I just had to hear it and talk about it often enough to make sense of it.
What ‘take home value’ means to me is this.
In Saving Grace, I have two lead characters who are dealing with forgiveness issues of self. Each one has done things for which they feel guilt. They both struggle with the idea that their sins could be forgiven by God and by themselves.
I have known that for some time. In fact, the characters almost came into being with that type of baggage.
I even wrote the story so that they have to come to the point of forgiving each other before they can succeed in the rest of the story.
But for the nearly three years I’ve worked on this story, I’ve had no clear idea of what the take away value is for the story. My attempts to manufacture something have, I believe, added to the normal confusion of writing a story. Those attempts may also be part of the reason I invariably end up with so many versions of each story idea.
I had to take those two parts of the story – Grace’s self-guilt and Anderson’s self-guilt – and lay them side-by-side to find the big picture or the take away value, which is: God is big enough to forgive all sin.
Imagine my surprise as I wrote those words the first time and realized one of my secondary characters actually tells the two lead characters that near the middle of the story!
It’s no surprise to me that the lesson had to be repeated so many times before I got it. This is not a new experience and has been duplicated in my personal life and the studio.
Nor is it a surprise that I finally grasped the lesson by coming at it from a different direction. From the back door, if you will. That, too, seems to be the pattern of my life.
It will also not surprise me if the lesson sticks, because that also seems to be the pattern. Difficult to get hold of, but easy to hang on to.
What I’m wondering is whether or not it will be easier or more difficult to identify the take away value for the next story.
Or maybe for those older stories like Fine Lines and Perfect Opportunities, for which I’ve never quite understood the take away value.
The take away value for this post is not to give up. If at first you don’t succeed, try try again. Sooner or later, the pieces will fall into place and things will become clear.