Some people write stories where nothing much happens. The main character sits around thinking of things that happened in the past. The hero doesn’t do anything heroic.

Robert McKee

Robert McKee says, “Nothing happens in the world? Are you out of your f***ing mind?”

The only thing that matters in your story is what the characters do. What they think, feel, or see is just the whipped cream, peanuts, and cherry on top. The ice cream, the core of your story is what they do.

Sometimes people think that to write a realistic story, they can’t have spectacle, intrigue, suffering, or excitement. I like what Robert McKee’s character in the movie Adaptation says when a screenwriter tells him he’s writing a movie where nothing much happens, just like life in the real world. McKee says:

Nothing happens in the world? Are you out of your f***ing mind? People are murdered every day. There’s genocide, war, corruption. Every f***ing day, somewhere in the world, somebody sacrifices his life to save someone else. Every f***ing day, someone, somewhere takes a conscious decision to destroy someone else. People find love, people lose it. For Christ’s sake, a child watches her mother beaten to death on the steps of a church. Someone goes hungry. Somebody else betrays his best friend for a woman. If you can’t find that stuff in life, then you, my friend, don’t know crap about life!

For your story to be realistic, something has to happen. You don’t need to have explosions, murders, or dramatic love stories, but something has to happen.

What do you think? Do all stories require something to happen? Can you think of any exceptions?

PRACTICE

Write about something happening, a story about one of the following:

  • murder
  • genocide
  • war
  • corruption
  • sacrifice
  • destruction
  • starvation
  • betrayal
  • love

Write for fifteen minutes. When the time’s up, post your practice in the comments section. And if you post, be sure to read and give feedback to a few other writers.

Good luck!

Joe Bunting
Joe Bunting
Joe Bunting is a writer and entrepreneur. He is the author of the #1 Amazon Bestseller Let's Write a Short Story! and the co-founder of Story Cartel. You can follow him on Twitter (@joebunting).