Cracking the Literary Nut

What is the “nut”?  What is the nut of a story?

Not the cashew or the almond, but the central idea upon which everything else in a story originates.  You can call it theme, but I like nut better.  Not just because I like to eat nuts, but because huge things grow from a tiny nut.

My story is a huge living thing that grew from one tiny idea.  What was that tiny idea?  Is it my experience in toxic-faith communities or why I had the experience?

These two one-sentence summaries describe two different nuts. The first nut is a what nut.  The second sentence is a why nut.

Old: In her fervor for Jesus, a newly born-again Jewish woman finds herself captivated within exciting but cult-like Christian churches.

New: A young girl who doesn’t fit in with her peers, her religion, or her culture finds acceptance and excitement in cult-like churches.

I have had my share of trouble deciding between a what nut and a why nut.  But I’ve also had trouble with the who nut. For whom am I writing this story? 

My sentence summaries contain a what nut and a why nut.  They also contain a who nut.  Am I writing to a religious audience or a secular audience?

A friend who always makes me think had this response to my new one-sentence summary:

A friend A fairly radical departure from your old tag lines. It feels like it would have more of an appeal to a less religious audience.

My response:

I am really stuck. I’ve gone through about five titles and subtitles and I don’t think anything I’ve come up with yet describe the core of my story.

The question is how do I crack the nut?

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