6. Story Driver

Action or Decision?

By Melanie Anne Phillips

Some stories are driven by actions. Others are forced along by decisions. All stories have some degree of both. This question determines which one "triggers" the other, but does not determine the ratio between the two.


If actions that occur in your story determine the types of decisions that need to be made, choose Action.


If decisions or deliberations that happen in your story precipitate the actions that follow, choose Decision.


Story Driver: The mechanism by which the plot is moved forward.


Action or Decision describes how the story is driven forward. The question is: Do Actions precipitate Decisions or vice versa?


Every story revolves around a central issue, but that central issue only becomes a problem when an action or a decision sets events into motion. If an action gets things going, then many decisions may follow in response. If a decision kicks things off, then many actions may follow until that decision has been accommodated.


The Action/Decision relationship will repeat throughout the story. In an Action story, decisions will seem to resolve the problem until another action gets things going again. Decision stories work the same way. Actions will get everything in line until another decision breaks it all up again. Similarly, at the end of a story there will be an essential need for an action to be taken or a decision to be made. Both will occur, but one of them will be the roadblock that must be removed in order to enable the other.


Whether Actions or Decisions move your story forward, the Story Driver will be seen in the instigating and concluding events, forming bookends around the dramatics.


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