Is Finding The Spine of Your Story Breaking Your Back?

     As with all writing, no matter if it's a novel, screenplay, television pilot or play, everything boils down to structure. Without it, you're doomed. Without even a basic cause and effect outline, eventually you'll hit a brick wall.
     Even when we have a detailed scene by scene or chapter by chapter outline, the actual writing part is difficult, some say even torturous.
     What can be of help is to understand the spine of your story. What is what you're writing "really" about? The wildest thriller can still be about the disconnect between a father and son or a child from an alcoholic family's relationship with her mother or a guy with authority issues.
     Re-watch or re-read your favorite novels or movies and figure out what the stories are "really" about. Or look at the TV shows your currently watching or have watched? 
     Was "The Sopranos" about the brutal head of a Mafia family? Or was it "really" about a mobster who was the head of a Mafia family who was also a family man with mother issues? 
     Think about it.
     I recently saw a production of the play "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" I saw the movie years ago and I've read it, as well. On the surface it's about a destructive relationship between a man and wife. But if you look at it closely, what it's really about is a woman disappointed with herself for marrying a weak man who she compares to her successful father, which says to me the spine of the play is a woman with father issues.
     Now, the play is one of my favorites and it's about other things, as well, but the core of the structure, i.e., the spine, comes from Martha putting her father on a pedestal. Her husband can never live up to her father and she never lets him forget it.
     So pick a couple of your favorite works of fiction and look for the spine. It will help you recognize the spine of your story.