After many years of writing and teaching others to write, I’ve come to suspect that most of us are asking the wrong question: What’s this story about?
Plot is easy to articulate. The people I mentor often approach at the end of a session and rattle off the details of a current project. They tell me what it’s about: My story is about a guy who eats a poisoned sandwich and wakes up in outer space. The person beams, certain that the work has been done for a good story.
“Okay,” I say. “So what’s the problem?” I’ve worked with writers long enough to know that the person wouldn’t be telling me about the story at all if things were going well with the writing.