Story Genius Course: Internal and External Plots
I’m still hammering away at
the Story Genius course. It truly
is a difficult but impressive way
to analyze your writing.
Besides the constant thinking of “why does [anything and everything] matter to the protagonist” in the Story Genius method of writing and creating story, Lisa Cron and Jennie Nash, the two key editors and writers in the course, want us to develop an internal and external conflict for the protagonist to battle.
            I have no problem with this in my fiction. In my YA short stories, my protagonist is always battling some familial or friend issue on the inside while she is traipsing through a national park battling real life problems trying to save both herself and usually a younger sibling on the outside. These two conflicts, the internal and the external, converge and sometimes clash at the epiphany or “aha” moment where our hero discovers how to overcome both problems and save the day. 
            But in my memoir about attending college as a mother of five, it’s not that dramatic. In memoir, everything must be true. I can’t make it up.
            So I told my editor, in order to find resolution to my internal and external problems and struggles with inferiority in the memoir, I graduated from Penn.
            Guess what she said? …Right! “That’s just surface,” [wait for it] “go deeper.”
The internal problem must become a new way for me to look at a particular situation in life.  In other words, the editors of Story Genius want to know what college MEANS to Victoria.  What is pushing and driving the protagonist to go on – what’s making Victoria go to college? What keeps her continuing to complete a degree?
College was a method to better educate myself in order to help my children, especially my firstborn who is perceptually impaired.  She was the impetus for me to begin college at that time.  Ever since the school counselor implied that my daughter couldn’t handle college, that the special education department felt she would never be able to obtain a degree, I decided to be sure she can at least have that opportunity because I never had the opportunity to attend college.   
What does college mean to Victoria?  Although Victoria always wanted to attend college herself because in her mind college equaled intelligence, by the time she is a mother of five children, college equals the voice of reason in the educational journey of her children.  Teachers, counselors, and the learning consultants at school gave their educated opinion that my daughter, with her learning disabilities and ADHD should not go to college. But she wanted to be a kindergarten teacher. How can a mother not allow her child the opportunity to at least try to see if she can do it with my assistance as I’ve helped her all through her school journey thus far?
Fellow faithful blog followers, did I go deep enough this time?  What does college mean to you?  Thanks so much for any insight you may offer. 

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

16 thoughts on “Story Genius Course: Internal and External Plots”

  1. Here are the questions I would ask to try to get deeper:

    If V. wants to go to college to help her children, what does helping her children mean to her? Does it mean she's a good mother?
    What does being a good mother mean to her? How does she judge herself? What happens if she fails? What is her biggest fear?

  2. Awesome questions, Jennifer! Thank you so much for these. I'm a mother first. My children are my life. And yes, if my children do well in life, and by that I mean are responsible adults, hold down jobs, then Victoria is a successful mother. So much for me to consider. Thank you again for visiting Adventures in Writing and offering your insight. It is greatly appreciated. Happy Thanksgiving!

  3. Hello and so nice to meet You.Thank You for dropping by and following Me.I enjoyed reading this post and learning a little about You.I felt empathy for Your situation with Your much loved Child My heart breaking as a Mother.I would think it would be nice when You include just how difficult it was to go to college and the tug of war with balancing a large family with the unfamiliar journey You were treading through-College. I'm following You too-Denise

  4. Funny, isn't it? I can never seem to go deep enough. Stories are meant to be multilayered and rich. Jennifer has excellent questions. Now…to have excellent answers will take much thought. Thanks so much for visiting Adventures in Writing and offering your advice. It's greatly appreciated. All the best to you!

  5. Hello and welcome to Adventures in Writing, Denise! Thank you for your kind words. I hope to show the reader just how difficult it is to attend college and maintain a large family, especially with one child being special needs. Thanks again for your insight into my memoir about my college journey. Happy Thanksgiving!

  6. Like Lynda said, there's always another route to go deeper somehow. This is one of the things I like about the writing community, the insight and tips we glean. Cheering you on in the journey. Happy Thanksgiving!

  7. Straight to the mother heart, oh yes. I don't think you get a more solid motive than a mother fighting to give her children the life she wishes she'd had. There's psychological issues, childhood trauma, and love all wrapped in one.

    What did college mean to me? Having the groundwork to get my home schooled children through high school. That's enough, eh?

  8. Great post! There is always a way to go deeper. I agree with Jennifer's questions as well. As for my motivation to go to college, I wanted to be a teacher so naturally I needed to go. Of course nowadays, you can't get by with just a bachelors degree anymore.

  9. Multiple plot layering is fine when handled correctly. I was watching a TV show last night that began to annoy me with it's contrived plot lines and I think this can be a danger when writing. Just to throw in issues that a writer wants bring up can clutter a story and confuse a reader.

    I went to college when the Viet Nam War was on and avoiding the draft was part of my reason for going. My educational direction was a bit murky so I went for 5 years without ever graduating. In reality going into the service probably would have been better for my own personal development.

    Part of my college experience was trying to "find myself" as the cliche of that day went. It was probably a poor motivation, but going to college seemed like the thing one was supposed to do in order to be successful in life. Actually I found myself after I left college and the excursion into education was merely a detour into distraction from life.

    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out

  10. Unfortunately, it seems that's true Michelle. But I do believe that attending college is important for furthering education of the soul. Thanks so much for visiting Adventures in Writing and leaving a note. It's appreciated. Merry Christmas!

  11. Thank you so much for this, Lee. I think it's true that many young people go to college as a way of avoiding something like finding a career or real job as they say. Yet I do think, in some instances, that college is good for the soul of young people when they have motivation and direction. Of course, the military gives strong character for those who need it. It's just scary because of the life and death aspect. Thanks so much for visiting Adventures in Writing and leaving your insight. It is appreciated more than you realize. Have a wonderful holiday season.


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