Okay, all right.  Permission to matter blah blah blah stakes whatever man.  What’s the DEAL?

The deal is, you’re going to have to play with these concepts until you can arrange them into a formula that works for you.  Your goal is to internalize them so that they influence what you create on an unconscious level—mental muscle memory as it were.

Just by reading about this, even if you don’t buy it, you are pouring ingredients one into the other and back.  The dance of temperance leads to more informed decisions and greater consciousness.

Here’s another thing to keep in mind:  Stories resolve.  That means they have an endgame, a way for a storyteller to say “I’m Done”.  This is often personified in the conflict—tension—resolution story formula.

This is actually harder than it looks.  Many writers can’t bear the thought of a resolution.  It’s much easier to do what’s called false tension, where you introduce a conflict, build up tension, and then back off from the resolution by removing the source of the conflict in some way.  They are revoking the principle of Permission To Matter for saw tooth storytelling.

Saw tooth storytelling is a kind of zilchplay.  But it carries with it another danger—running out of narrative ammunition.  There are only so many conflicts you can introduce before you begin to repeat yourself.  There are only so many conflicts you can repeat before the tension vanishes.

Think of it in half-life terms.  The first time the girl detective is faced with “follow my dream or please daddy’s image of me” is 100% tense.  The next time, 50%.  After that your audience is going to stop caring.

Get on with it.  Consequences are thrilling and exciting.  They inspire meditations—what if girl detective decides to please her daddy and become a hippy painter like him?  Is following her dream worth the cost?  Is it even right?  Or is it a case of “whoa that was a close one, that’s so cool she made the right decision?  OMG what if she hadn’t followed her dream?”

Keeps you awake at night.

What you’re looking for is a steady reward cycle.  Reader is rewarded for following the story.  Characters who do stuff are cool.  It keeps the narrative clip loaded and firing, bang bang bang.  If you keep firing and never hitting anything, you’re just wasting shots and soon to run out of places to go.

So here’s a simple formula:  Character plus setting equals situation—Resolve, repeat until done.

  • Newbie woman engineer plus starship equals keeping things running smoothly, or
  • Girl detective plus high school equals solving mysteries without flunking, or
  • Humaniform alien female plus stuck on earth while making escape ship equals survive culture shock without being discovered

You don’t have to buy it, just consider it.