Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Story Structure

Kristen Lamb is a well known blogger in the writer's world, and in a recent blog post (here) she discusses the basics of story structure. In her posting, she discusses "Scene and Sequel" (from Jack Bickham’s Scene and Structure) as follows:

scene is a fundamental building block of fiction. It is physical. Something tangible is happening. The scene has three parts (again per Jack Bickham’s Scene & Structure, which I recommend every writer buy).
  • Statement of the goal
  • Introduction and development of conflict
  • Failure of the character to reach his goal, a tactical disaster

Goal –> Conflict –> Disaster

The sequel is the other fundamental building block and is the emotional thread. The sequel often begins at the end of a scene when the viewpoint character has to process the unanticipated but logical disaster that happened at the end of your scene.

Emotion–> Thought–> Decision–> Action

Link scenes and sequels together and flesh over a narrative structure and you will have a novel that readers will enjoy.

Now, I am not one who generally buys into formulas. In my experience, they are too often projected from a novice in one of my writing groups onto my work without the person having a clear understanding of the formula or the ideas behind it. For example, a woman in my group had just read Bickham's book and tried to apply the "sequel" part of his idea to the beginning of my chapter. It was very confusing.

However, Kristen does an excellent job explaining Bickham's ideas and goes on to say that the formulas (and I hate using that word) don't have to be used the same way every time and compares them to ordering pizza -- we know what a pizza is, but it can come in many different varieties.

I am going to take these ideas, rework the first chapter of my story, and hope I'm the lucky winner of a five page critique by Kristen.

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