A guest post by Art Holcomb
I am a screenwriter and writing teacher. I am also a voracious consumer of fiction. I enjoy and teach pretty much all types and forms of stories, but for the purposes of this post, I should clarify that I am also a lover of the shorter forms of fiction.
Because as you’ve read here many times, the principles that make them work — Larry refers to them as story physics — apply to all fiction, regardless of form, media or length.
In my career, I moved from poetry to stage plays to comics and screenplays, in part because of the limits that they impose. But one of my earliest lessons was certainly that story is story, and mastering the short form will teach you how to master the longer forms.
Several years ago, I came across this piece by the prolific pulp writer of the 1930’s, Lester Dent (1904-1959) who was the creator and primary author of the novels about superhuman adventurer, scientist and all around hero, Doc Savage. In his life, he wrote 159 novels over just 16 years, as well as countless short stories under various pseudonyms and was heralded as one of the best pulp writers of his time.
Someplace along the line, Dent set down what he called the Master Fiction Plot which he used to help craft all of his stories. It is simple and clear and one of the best applications of what Larry and the Story Engineering / Story Physics books represent.
It is attached here.
While it was written as a guideline for creating 6,000 word short stories, I think you’ll see how clearly it can be applied to novels, just as Dent did. By understanding its principles, you can learn how to keep your story moving, your characters involved and – most importantly – learn how to make every word count, which is perhaps the greatest thing writing short fiction can teach any novelist.
Art Holcomb is a screenwriter and comic book creator. His most recent comic book property is THE AMBASSADOR and his most recent project for TV is entitled THE STREWN. His new writing book is tentatively entitled “SAVE YOUR STORY: How to Resurrect Your Abandoned Story and Get It Written NOW!” (Release TBA.)