How to write a semi-autobiographical story about perseverance, politics, self-reflection and metaphysics?
by Brandon A. Commiskey
Question: I know the question is kinda vague,sorry. I guess what i want to know is how to find a story goal that can carry the average reader(and anchor my story)through a myriad of subjects without wandering off and writing a manifesto or essay about life and everything in it? I want to use my own story of triumph over adversity in its twisted and surrealistic manifestations as point of reference. Then use self-reflection to transcend personal issues that are universal to every society and then connect that to more philosophical,or existential themes.
My personal life is full of interesting events and almost unbelievable stories (but true) that I believe everyone can relate to. Also my head is filled with Knowledge(or I like to think it is) and opinions about many subjects.I understand no one knows who I am and I haven't any "credentials" in any of the subjects I plan to speculate upon to to back up my ideas and that no one would care. So that's my next question. What genre to market it in? And how would I keep interest while bouncing back and forth from my personal life and "everything else under the sun"?Answer:
First, regarding a Story Goal, you have a couple of options. You have to ask yourself what would satisfy the main character of the story (you or a fictional version of you). What would feel like a success? For instance...
1. If the main character would be satisfied by, in the end, if he came to appreciate the meaning of the events in his life, that would suggest a Goal of Understanding.
2. If what it takes to satisfy the character would be to come up with a new idea about what needs to be done, then you would choose Conceiving an Idea as a Goal.
3. If you have a character who is
dissatisfied because he refuses to think about the meaning of the events in his life, but changes at the climax and starts to ponder them more deeply, then Contemplation may be the Goal.
You also have to consider the difference between the Story Goal, which is the overall story concern, and the main character's personal concern.
The difference is that most characters will be involved with or affected by the Story Goal. In other words, they all might be struggling with understanding/not understanding, contemplating/not contemplating, or conceiving an idea/not conceiving an idea.
If the main character has one of these as his personal concern, unique to him, then your Story Goal will be something else.
Just bear in mind that how the main character resolves his personal concern will determine if the Story Goal is achieved.
For instance, you could have a story in which the main character comes to Understand the meaning of his life, and that allows him to do something that ends the adversity in his world. Or you could have a story in which the main character's personal triumph over adversity brings about Understanding for everyone else.
As for genre, works that focus on philosophical questions often fall into the category of literary fiction, though in this case you seem to be contemplating a memoir.
It's also possible to deal with philosophical issues in other genres. The difference is that, rather than indulging in philosophical speculation, your characters will be doing things that cause the reader to speculate. Also, the more complex the philosophical questions and the more you invite your reader to ponder, the more literary the work tends to be.
However, it's usually more effective to present events that illustrate the philosophical issues rather than present lectures or musings. Show how the issues affect someone's life, someone the reader can care about. That's what makes the issues real.