There are no subtleties, motivation is a given, emotions are unanalyzed, and the narrative proceeds in a linear way.

The simplest stories are fairy tales and myths in which a central character—who is on some sort of quest or journey—is continually on stage and secondary characters only appear to assist or thwart them. This is what we call a “skeleton” story—you can see its bones. There are no subtleties, motivation is a given, emotions are unanalyzed, and the narrative proceeds in a linear way. In the skeleton the world and its people are viewed in morally black and white terms. The temptation to stray will be almost irresistible, but if you do, you will drag your reader into thickets of subplots and gangs of minor characters. The Exercise
Write a simple, straight-forward story, in which a strong main character is on a quest for something important and specific (e.g., medicine for a sick mother, or the key to a barn where a tyrant has locked away all the food from starving people). Don’t worry about explaining too much. The main character starts acting right away. The main character then meets an obstacle; then the main character finally triumphs over the obstacle by means of a magic or supernatural element. You may introduce minor characters, but the narrative should never abandon your main character. Tell your story through action and dialogue. The Objective
Like a medical student who must learn the names and location of human bones before going on to more complex systems, a beginning writer must be able to handle and control basic plot before moving on to more subtle elements like motivation, subtext, and ambiguity. Many of the greatest novels incorporate a quest, a journey, and triumph over an obstacle. These works also concentrate on one main character and end, if not happily, at least on an emotionally satisfying note of resolution.

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