Too many writers try to write stories that seem realistic. Don’t do that because the goal of every writer should be to create an intriguing story that feels realistic but really isn’t. You have to walk a fine line between being too realistic (and thus boring) or too unreal (and thus unbelievable).
One way to make a strong story is to focus on a single problem and relentlessly force the hero to face that sole problem from different points of view.
In “The Happiest Season,” the hero is a woman in love with her girlfriend. So the problem is that the hero wants to marry her girlfriend.
The first problem occurs when the hero’s girlfriend invites the hero to her family Christmas but on the way there, reveals that she hasn’t told her family that she’s a lesbian. That means the hero must hide her love for her girlfriend from her family and pretend that they’re both straight women.
Next, the hero’s girlfriend’s old boyfriend shows up, putting another obstacle in the hero’s way as she wonders if her girlfriend might still have romantic feelings towards her old boyfriend.
Next, the hero’s old girlfriend appears. When the hero talks to this woman, this woman says that she and the hero’s girlfriend broke up because the hero’s girlfriend wouldn’t reveal their relationship to her family.
While Christmas shopping with her girlfriend’s family, two kids in the family secretly put a necklace in the hero’s backpack so she gets caught shoplifting. This makes the family think the hero is a criminal so now they like and trust her much less.
So the main problem is that the hero wants to marry her girlfriend and here are all the obstacles that suddenly get in her way:
- The hero’s girlfriend hasn’t told her family that she’s a lesbian yet.
- The hero’s girlfriend’s old boyfriend suddenly appears and hangs around with the hero’s girlfriend.
- The hero’s girlfriend’s old girlfriend appears and ells the hero that their relationship didn’t work because the hero’s girlfriend refused to acknowledge that she’s a lesbian to her family.
- The family thinks the hero is a criminal so they don’t trust or like her as much as before.
Notice that all of these problems all threaten to keep the hero from marrying her girlfriend. A story isn’t about different problems but about a single problem that the hero must face from different perspectives.
When you tell a story that focuses on a single problem, you create a unified and focused story. When you tell a story that focuses on multiple problems that have no relation to each other, you create a mess.
Think of the core problem of your story and then think of different problems that will keep the hero from resolving that core problem until the very end. A unified story will beat an unfocused, chaotic mess every time.