Story Structure

Writing Wednesday again. The part of this blog where I write about what I’m learning on my journey to become a published author.

One of my beliefs about writing is that some of it can be learned. There is the artistic part of writing that comes naturally or is honed by much practice.  Then there’s the craft part, the nuts and bolts, ways to make our writing stronger, clearer, and more effective.  I believe this can be learned.  Why? Because if it can’t, I’m totally wasting my time.  And so, I read books about writing in hopes of picking up some tidbits to help.

I just finished the e-book Story Structure Demystified by Larry Brooks and boy, did I pick up more than just a few tidbits.

The idea is that all successful stories (and we’re talking novels/screenplays here) have a basic structure that make them work.   Without this basic structure, a story just doesn’t deliver and probably isn’t going to be publishable.   Some people fall upon this structure through trial and error, some people plan it, but in some way, all novels have this structure and their authors have some understanding of it.

The four main parts of are the Set-up, the Response, the Attack, and the Resolution.  In each part, our protagonist has some things that need to be accomplished and some milestones need to be reached to move the story forward in an workable manner.  If something happens out of order, it throws off the flow of the novel.

For example, the first part of the novel, the Set Up is just that, setting up the problem, providing some background, introducing the characters, showing our protagonist in his or her daily life.   This is when we learn what’s at stake and where we make the reader care about our hero.  This is not the time for our protagonist and antagonist to do battle or even have direct interaction.  If we throw too  much into that first part, we fail to make the reader care about our character.  Without that, our story doesn’t work.  The reader must care what happens to our character or they have no reason to keep reading.

The book goes into detail about what exactly needs to happen in each part, how long each part is approximately. It also details where other main events, like the first plot point, the mid-point, and the second plot point should occur.  Larry Brooks uses tons of examples from well known books and movies to illustrate successful story structure.

I have learned I’m a plotter.  I like to have a blueprint of where I’m going when I tackle a big project, otherwise I tend to get lost. Clearly, a book like this is very useful for someone who likes to plan.   However, I think this book would work for pansters as well.

I know I will be referencing this book repeatedly while I try to edit/rewrite my first novel.  It’s clearly not working and I think a lot of that is things being out of order.  I think I managed to get all the parts in there, they’re just not all close to wear they need to be, and it makes the book wonky.

Have you read this book?  Did you find it helpful?  What are some craft books you like? I’m always looking for a good book.

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