Because Size Matters: McKee’s Four Tips on Writing a Big Story

This post by Jan O’Hara originally appeared on Writer Unboxed on 6/16/14.

You know how certain types of feedback get under your skin like road rash, so that months or years later the grit is still working its way to the surface? Well, eons ago, as she contemplated a novel I’d set in my province, a critique partner sent me metaphorically skidding on the asphalt in a pair of Daisy Dukes.

The comment she dropped  which I found so distressing? “I think this would appeal to readers outside of Canada.” (Meaning, as I took it, that my beloved story wasn’t sufficiently big or universal to warrant a larger audience.)*

If you’ve had similar concerns about your fiction, today’s post might help. It’s a summary of four techniques advocated by Robert McKee in his seminar on Story which, when employed individually or collectively, promise to give your fiction a sense of expansiveness. While you’ve likely encountered the first three in one venue or another, it’s the fourth which lit up my neurons and where I’ll focus the bulk of this article. (If you’ve missed my former McKee Morsels, you can read them here and here.)


1. Take the Story Conflict Wide

In this circumstance, what is the worst thing that could happen to my character?

Writers are encouraged to use the above question when brainstorming progressive complications for their story. If attempting to go wide, then, while the story might begin at the level of personal or interpersonal  conflict, the “worst” ripples outward to affect the larger world, including societies and institutions, possibly even nations or worlds.


Click here to read the full post on Writer Unboxed.