Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Blank Pages

It may come as no surprise to some of my readers that I was largely uneducated regarding story structure while writing my first four novels. If I hit on what looks like a preplotted story arc, I attribute it to intuition or gut feeling about how my stories should develop. Now that I have my recent works and also my backlist published, I’m thinking a lot more about how to develop a story—a new story.

I’ve been reading writing blogs long enough to come across a lot of terminology on storytelling. Character archetypes, character arcs, the three act structure, inciting incidents, building tension, climaxes, and the list goes on. Generally, I love reading how-to guides. I am a do-it-yourselfer from way back. But I want to know more than simply the mechanics of something—I crave knowledge of principles, those amazing gems of information that can be applied to so many endeavors.

A while back, I purchased a few books on writing. For a beginner writer, The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman helped me clean up my writing, back when I was primarily interested in snagging an agent. I also enjoyed Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass. But the idea of constructing a story—well, I had stories and they were already pretty well formed, so I put the other books, Save the Cat by Blake Snyder and The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Volger on the shelf. They seemed like heavier reading that I would eventually get around to.

In fact, I have finally gotten around to reading them, but with a very specific purpose—I have a few characters with some interesting history, but I have no story. I mean, I know there’s a story to be told about a young man whose mother is delusional—she believes her son is blind. But how to write it! I may be as delusional as my character to think I can pull this one off, but still ... Hmm … this story could take a while … so, I thought I’d work out my process of discovery here on my blog and make this space earn its keep. Unless of course I get sidetracked with something else … Be warned, I sometimes get big ideas, and they often get messy. Now, if I can just avoid Exploding Head Syndrome!

7 comments:

  1. Hey Bridget. We are reading BETWEEN THE LINES, MASTER THE SUBTLE ELEMENTS OF FICTION WRITING, by Jessica Page Morrell in my Grub Street Class. It is a tremendous help and gives many, many examples. Well worth a read. In fact, I may go chapter by chapter through it again, once I'm in a full on edit of my current story. Hope you are well.

    Liza

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    1. Oh, that sounds like another good book! Right now, reading about writing feels right--I'm in no hurry to rush this story, so researching will be time well spent. Thanks for the referral.

      I hope your own novel writing is progressing. :-)

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  2. I've used Save the Cat in the way I write my books now. I've developed a worksheet I use before I begin any novel these days, and it's really helpful! I made it from years of reading stuff like you've been looking at. All of that can be really helpful. I wish you luck with your ideas1

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    1. I did find Save the Cat really helpful, though I have to say, I'm really enjoying the more in-depth analysis of The Writer's Journey. I've already formulated some worksheet ideas--via Scrivener--to implement some of it. I can hardly believe I have evolved into an outliner! Ha! (I say that with every honest intent of outlining--we'll see what happens when I get down to writing, lol)

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    2. LOL about outlining. Yeah, I've gone the opposite way. I used to outline everything, and now I hardly do anything. I do my worksheet, which is only about 15 sentences of my own story writing when I'm finished. Extremely basic, so I don't really call myself an outliner these days. More like "build a skeleton" and then dive in, I guess!

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    3. I'm just so curious about implementing an outline. I've never really done that before--I've outlined after the fact, just to get an out-of-control ms under control, but to outline before I've even typed my first sentence--I'd like to try that out. Of course, I haven't even typed out the first line of the outline yet--I've only been working on character sketches. It's so tempting to just can the outline, take my characters, stick them in a setting and see what happens!

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    4. Yeah, for sure try out the outline!

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