How to Choose Your Story

Posted by on Mar 10, 2017 in Catherine Ann Jones, Catherine's Blog

“A true writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for others.” –                                                                                                           Thomas Mann

Catherine Ann Jones

        Catherine Ann Jones

 “My job is to focus on how to make the book or script better and accessible to a wide audience without betraying the author’s vision.”

                         Catherine Ann Jones, Writing Consultant

 Writers need an audience as much as actors or other performing arts.

A written work is not yet realized until the reader appears. Many writers lose heart if not published or if attention is not paid. Even Shakespeare stopped writing once the Globe Theatre burned to the ground. He never wrote another play.


“But then, I began to be drawn in. The more it drew me, the less touch I had with the concrete world. I was in another universe entirely.  I was in myself. And this world seemed far, far more real than the one I had left.”

                            – Catherine Ann Jones, On the Edge: the Final Years of Virginia Woolf

                                                                  (National Endowment for the Arts Award)

I am often asked by clients and The Way of Story workshop participants, how to choose which story to write.  The important guiding line is to choose a story you have a strong emotional connection with.  Generally speaking, people go to movies or read in order to feel. Just remember that it is the emotional power of your story that will ultimately determine its success.

Stories written by formulas rarely move us, and consequently fail.

They are too generic, not about specific people.

Though the starting point of my award-winning play, The Women of Cedar Creek, was the actual female members of my own family, I pushed both character and story to extremes, leaving far behind the bare facts of my own family’s history.  It is well to remember that good writing is more an impressionist painting than a literal photograph.

Whether you create an original story or re-create a known one, you still must make it your own.  And this requires a personal journey, both inner and outer.   The outer journey of research and craft is merely the starting point.  The best adaptations are never literal.  Find the vision of your story from within, and it will guide you to the end.  Invisible helpers will appear to light the way.


Sometimes a story might appear in a dream, as did the Disney family film that I wrote for Dolly Parton, Unlikely Angel. The theme of unconditional love necessary for spiritual growth, told in a simple way, combined a specific, personal value with a universal truth which found a response in the collective. Often the best ideas arise from our own unconscious  minds, either waking or in sleep.

The challenge is to discover the meaning for your self in the story you have chosen, and then adopt the necessary form that can be meaningful to others.  One might say, first, the passion, and only second is craft necessary to birth an authentic and great story.


It is passion in a relationship or marriage that will sustain it for years through thick and thin.  Similarly, it is passion in a story that will sustain the writing process through the weeks, months, and sometimes years of completing the work.

How to choose your story then? Simple.

Choose the one you feel emotionally connected with.

“We’ve become lopsided living only in our heads. Writing, in order to serve the soul, must integrate craft with the inner world of intuition and feeling.”

Catherine Ann Jones, New York Times


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