DL Fowler's Blog

The Whole Story

Posted in Inspiration, Moments of Grace, Plots, Psychology, Reading, Themes, Transform Your Fiction, Writing by DLFowler on October 26, 2017

When I ask readers what a book is about, they often give a description of the Lead character’s physical journey. Such answers tend to reflect our human tendency to express ourselves in terms of a physical realm, even though our emotions operate at a psychological level.

Jesse Lee Kercheval explains in her book Building Fiction[1] that readers need to see the tangible evidence when internal conflicts are resolved. To satisfy that need, authors must manifest psychological change with physical consequences.

Readers may not articulate the themes, moral premises, or psychological movements of our stories, but they are aware of them, at least subconsciously. That is because our characters’ physical journeys are metaphors for their moral dilemmas. Psychological and physical journeys are inseparable. Until deep in Act 2, a Lead’s physical journey drives her psychological growth. After she accepts the offer of grace, new found moral clarity accelerates her progress toward the physical goal that symbolizes the story’s theme.

The chart below shows how the physical and psychological journeys work together over three acts. It also identifies how major turning points in a story relate to both journeys. The solid line tracks the Lead’s progress toward a physical goal, and the dotted line plots her psychological growth.

In order to better understand the chart, you may want to review the six previous posts that describe various story elements in more detail:

What is Your Journey About?

A Story’s Psychological Journey

A Story’s Physical Journey

A Story’s Moment of Grace

A Journey’s Three Acts

A Story’s Five Psychological Movements


I hope these seven posts on masterful storytelling have been helpful. Do you have any tips or thoughts I haven’t covered? I love hearing from you. Please leave a comment.

[1] Jesse Lee Kercheval, Building Fiction: How to Develop Plot and Structure (Madison, WI: The University of Wisconsin Press, 1997).

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