- What Readers Want
The average American won’t finish reading one book in a year. Long before the last chapter is reached, the book starts gathering dust on some shelf. Why do people watch a third rerun of Law and Order instead of picking up a book? They haven’t found an exciting book that will keep them up at night.
- What Readers Often Get
Newspapers wouldn’t be dying if their columns ran captivating stories. Instead, they print what happened, and that’s common and boring. Stuff happens all the time. Journalists attend the same schools and learn the same writing styles. They watch the same movies and read the same books, and they associate with the same social networks. We shouldn’t be surprised that what usually hits the printed page is much the same as what we’ve read before.
- What Writers Must Avoid
In the first few lines, if the story fails to identify the hero and the problem he faces, boredom sets in. Without a character who wants something, readers have no reason to care, so we must avoid descriptions of landscape and weather and anything else that steals focus from what the hero cares about.
- Five Essential Elements of Story
Your stories may be plot driven or character driven. They may be fiction or nonfiction. They may be carefully outlined or come from one thought leading to another. No matter what genre you are writing and what approach you think works best, your story must have the following SCOOP elements to get readers emotionally involved.
Situation : The problem that gives the story purpose at the beginning.
Character: A hero whose desire matters most.
Objective: The passion that the character is desperate to satisfy.
Obstacle: The conditions that put the goal’s fulfillment in doubt.
Plight: What the character risks in the pursuit of what he or she wants.
- Three Essential Results of Story
For an experience to have meaning, the character must learn something. We should see a change in both knowledge and personality or the story has no right to exist. To aid our memories, the five essential elements and the three essential results spell the acronym SCOOP IT UP.
Insight: What the character learns, which he or she didn’t know in the beginning.
Transformation: How the character’s personality changes, either positively or negatively.
Unresolved Problem: The character’s concern about what will happen next.
- How to Give Your Story a Captivating Focus
You could write what happened and check for the SCOOP IT UP elements later. That’s the easiest way to start and the hardest to finish, because the rewrite and editing takes more time. If you briefly write the SCOOP IT UP elements before you start writing the story, you’ll find it harder to start, easier to finish, and a net saving of time. Don’t be surprised if you wind up changing what you specified in your SCOOP definitions. If you’re focused on those important elements, you will naturally have times when you want to change them, and maybe more than once. It’s a little added work, but I find it rewarding to write a two-sentence SCOOP summary. The first sentence uses the Situation, Character, and Objective to set the goal. The second sentence uses the Objective and Plight in the form of a question that puts the outcome in doubt.
Sample SCOOP Definition from the Movie The Ultimate Gift
Situation: A billionaire dies, leaving his wealth for a feeding frenzy among his heirs.
Character: Jason Stevens, a favorite grandson.
Objective: His inheritance.
Obstacle: Fulfill twelve conditions of the will.
Plight: Failure not only risks the money, it determines the value of relationships.
For information about Jim Stovall, author of The Ultimate Gift, Click Here.
- Sample SCOOP Two-Sentence Summary from the Movie The Ultimate Gift
After a billionaire dies, leaving his wealth for a feeding frenzy among his heirs (Situation), favorite grandson Jason Stephens (Character) wants his inheritance (Objective). Can he fulfill the twelve conditions of the will, (Obstacle), or will he lose the money and valuable relationships as well (Plight)?
- Sample SCOOP IT UP Four-Sentence Summary from a Memoir in Process by Wayne Johnson with Frank Ball: Guided Missteps 1: A Wanderer Finds His Way
While living with his grandparents (Situation), eight-year-old Wayne Johnson (Character) longs for the attention of a loving mother (Objective). When Uncle Harry brings no good news from home (Obstacle), can Wayne find courage to face the truth (Plight)? After overcoming one fear (Insight), he believes he can find the strength to face many more (Transformation). But after conquering his nightmares, can he handle the real difficulties of life? (Unresolved Problem)