A Call for Storyfix Post Topics

Any questions?

 

 

There’s a lot to this fiction writing stuff.

I try to cover it, to emphasize what I think are the sweet spots of the craft of storytelling.  Even so, certain questions keep coming up.

So I’m asking YOU… what would you like to see covered here in 2013?  

Anything, the full enchilada, from the arena of writing stories — novels, screenplays, memoir, even short fiction… . core competencies, story physics, specific problems… agents, editors, publishers, self-publishing…  process, product, examples, deconstructions… what’s not clear, what seems impossible, what challenges you.

Your call.  Be as specific, or as general, as you’d like.

Can’t promise I’ll get to all of it.  Can’t promise, either, that I’ll know the answer.  In some cases I may point you to specific posts already here.  (Also, just to be clear… this isn’t a call for “guest posts,” I pretty much have that base covered.)

This is your shot at filling in the Storyfix course curriculum.

Also, if you have ideas on the product/services side — courses, coaching, ebooks, etc. — that you’d like to see developed, I’m all entrepreneurial ears.  (I’m considering a full “boot camp”… a from-idea-to-finished-draft, personally coached, multi-month membership seminar, with deadlines and assignments that take you from the blank page (and perhaps a blank head) to a draft you can either submit, or work with.)

Use the comment section here to toss your idea(s) and feedback, on any of this, into the ring.  Thanks for participating.

Larry

(Photo by Sasha Y. Kimel, via Flickr.) 

 

76 Comments

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76 Responses to A Call for Storyfix Post Topics

  1. Lin Barrett

    How about the subject of theme? I can actually see this being several posts: how to choose one, how to discover one, rewriting to strengthen one.

    And, on an extraneous note, the “boot camp” idea is a great one, and I must just have to sign up for it …

  2. OliveWildly

    – How to organize concisely into chapters
    – Pushing your sub-plots into really advancing the story
    – Creating suspense / build up into the climax

  3. I’d like to see more novel deconstructions. They’re incredibly illustrative to me. I even tried one myself on “Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn. They really help with seeing examples of Plot Points, inciting incidents, midpoints, and the rest.

    That said, whatever you write I find worth reading, Larry. Keep up the great teaching.

    Chris

  4. I’m in full agreement with Chris. Recently finished STORY ENGINEERING and starting to ‘see’ some of the milestones, but don’t feel confident enough to say I “own” it yet. Just starting my first official deconstruction for THE UNDERSIDE OF JOY. Definitely follows a formula and even so I’m questioning myself, lol.

    And yep, just about anything you put up there is worth the read. Was Chris reading my mind or something?

    Thnx for making us part of this, Larry. Boot camp idea is definitely intriguing, especially the deblanking the mind part.

  5. Shaun

    I have a question regarding a book series. I know the preferred way of handling the plot of each book is to make them standalone as oppose to having the plots bleed into one another forcing you to read them in order. I want to know if there are guidelines beyond that.

    I also second the novel deconstructions. Very useful. Perhaps one in each genre.

    Thanks for asking!

  6. Novel deconstructions are very useful. Nothing beats examples in an area all too covered by theory.
    But if it has to be theory, then I’d love to know more about
    – how to end a book that’s part of a trilogy, so that the reader wants more, instead of being pissed off it wasn’t a standalone
    – how to spot and correct weak (superficial) plotting in a subplot
    – how many subplots are too many, and which kinds of main plots support multiple subplots successfully

    And just anything you’d like to teach us. My mind is always open to your lessons. 🙂

  7. Nick

    Hey Larry –

    It would be great to have more features on editing. What to do with a finished manuscript to chisel out and hone issues of theme and character arc, as well as the ‘must-haves’ for individual scenes (dialogue, descriptors, beginning-middle-end and so forth). I would really like to see your take on the topic.

    Thanks!

  8. Larry, Thanks for being open to suggestions. There are two things I would like to see:
    1) More deconstruction of novels and films, especially those that have a subtle plot point that are easy to miss. The deconstruction of “An Education” and the comments you made regarding “500 Days of Summer” were enlightening. I would like to see more of that type of story given a structure analysis.
    2) Compelling Concepts. Establishing a compelling concept sounds like a no-brainer for us to get right after all the information, examples, and explanation you have provided. But, as you recently posted, this is something you see a lot. You have a $35 Conceptual Story Analysis, which includes the first plot point. Does it make sense to critique a concept, independent of the first plot point being defined? Or is it required that the FPP is either implied or stated in the concept description? I have numerous concepts I would love feedback on, but I haven’t established the first plot point. I just have a 1-2 paragraph description of the concepts. I think they are concepts, but maybe I’m wrong, maybe they’re just ideas that need more thought. If there was just a quick response of “Great concept”, or Great concept, but…”, or “This is just an idea, read my blog”, it would save me from moving forward on something that is lacking. The comments made for “Beware the Under-Cooked Story Concept” post contained a few concepts, which you gave feedback on. I would like to see more of that. Maybe a writer forum for us to share concepts among ourselves, with your comments as time permits. This is what I’m thinking, submitting a concept like in the comment posts, with feedback to validate that the concept is well, valid. Maybe even another tiered paid service:

    $?? Concept Validation/Comments
    $35 Conceptual Kick-Start Story Analysis
    $100 Professional Story Coaching

    Wishing you a good day, every day.

  9. Morgyn

    Trolling for critique groups/beta readers. How, where, how many and esp. finding peers to work with.

    And for those of us who discovered SE later rather than sooner, how long to let the body lay in the grave before digging it back up again?

    These may be better as blog posts.

    What’s with some of the reviewers on Amazon? Knuckleheads. Yes, they deserve to not hear what is being said, but what about some poor innocent who gets scared off?

  10. Chrystal

    Hey I’m all for the idea of the “boot camp” seminar or any sort of writing course but online rather then in person because I live on the land of Oz amongst the Koalas with no magical abilities so I cannot conjure coins to pay for a plane ticket, at least not until I manage to finish something worth publishing and considering that I have been working on your questionnaire for nearly 6 months I don’t see that happening any time soon hahaha.

  11. Larry, I think I’ve read everything you’ve written, in one form or another, and I teach from your excellent STORY ENGINEERING, but when it comes to endings, I would like . . . something more.

    You speak of structuring well, and the magic that results when a writer thinks about the ending. It’s true that “story structure empowers an effective ending.” Yes, I’ve seen this happen in my books (she says modestly). But for those uncertain moments, the 3 AM moments when you wonder about the ending, whether it is strong enough, could you give us some more thoughts? Perhaps you could even dissect some well-known endings and help us see what makes them effective.

    Larry, you may have already covered this topic in depth and I have missed it. A summary at least would be helpful.

    Many thanks for your invaluable work!

  12. All of the above. I’m just started on my copy of SE and wrestling mightily with concept, so a post or forum where people weigh in on strengths or weakness of a specific concept would be great.

    And I’m all for more deconstructions. They show clearly how a story works and why. Unfortunately, I haven’t read some of those books, so if we could have a heads up about what book would be the next subject of deconstruction, we could do the homework of being sure we’ve read it recently.

  13. lloyd tackitt

    The old man sighed as he settled into his rocking chair. A cool evening breeze had finally begun to dissipate the dusty heat of the day. Sipping a neat whisky while looking at the young boy on the porch swing he said, “Your brother was murdered when he was two. It’s a shame your parents didn’t tell you about it, they never was much good.”

    How to mix the right amount of dialogue with description – that’s a subject I’d lke to see covered.

  14. Gayle Messick

    For me, you use a term “sequencing” which covers several scenes and I would really appreciate learning more about how to use this technique properly.

    I ditto everything requested so far.

    Thanks so much. I plan to write a Jane Austen fanfic book and self-publish. They do sell very well, and more than well enough to purchase your services for my contemporary suspense. I have a contemporary suspense story for you. But please help me with the sequencing technique.

    thanks

  15. Gayle Messick

    For me, you use a term “sequencing” which covers several scenes and I would really appreciate learning more about how to use this technique properly.

    I ditto everything requested so far.

    Thanks so much. I plan to write a Jane Austen fanfic book and self-publish. They do sell very well, and more than well enough to purchase your services. I have a contemporary suspense story for you. But please help me with the sequencing technique.

    thanks

  16. Mark Entner

    I’d definitely be in favor of webinars. The full boot camp would be great. Maybe you could do some shorter ones on specific topics. Something like a month long seminar on developing theme, or going from idea to concept?

  17. Christine Lind

    I like this “boot camp” idea a lot!

  18. Donna Lodge

    Hi Larry:

    I’d like to see info on how to plot set-ups and pay-offs as you structure your story. Would also like info on identifying and analyzing set-ups and pay-offs in a story/stories you will be deconstructing on storyfix.com.

    Thanks

  19. Selena

    The “boot camp” is a wonderful idea!
    Thanks for the great coaching and information. I’ve learned so much!

  20. I wanna talk about a structure that breathes and introducing joy into the writing.

  21. Just some ideas that came to my head:

    – How would you go about when creating stories for Childrens’ book as opposed to a novel?
    – What to do for people who have a hard time to expressing their thought in paper?
    – How would this you apply the core competencies to books that teach? (stretching it, I know. Good thinking exercise )
    – Create an infographic for each core competencies for the visual people.
    – Now the following is not a topic but how about every now and then creating videos as a change of pace. Saw one video of you somewhere (can’t remember where now though) and you speak well. More would be nice.
    – What you do to prepare yourself to be at your most creative peak?
    – How do you improve your writing style?
    – How do you go about getting into a character and finding his voice so when the different story characters speak, they don’t all sound the same? For example, if a character is a French anarchist fellow, what would you do to get in that character’s way of speaking?
    – What tips do you have about describing the scenery and inanimate objects in a story? How far do you go into it? When and where is it appropriate?
    – How do you find a name that fits each character? And doesn’t sound phony?
    – How do you map a story that will span two books? Think like the Harry Potter series.
    – How do you add suspense into a story?
    – How to add emotion into a story and pull your reader’s string of emotions?
    – How to best “draw” a scene in your head into your reader’s mind?
    – When do you know a story will resonate with a large audience?
    – Exercises that improve your writing
    – How do you introduce characters into a story?
    – Words to use to describe how a character looks?
    – How to show a character’s state of emotion?

    Did I go to far in my list? ^^ Sorry, was on a roll there. Had to stop. Hope it helps.

    PS: BTW, just ordered Story Engineering. Book should come around this Wednesday. Can’t wait!

  22. Point of view, especially how to choose who the POV characters should be,
    Weaving story threads
    Starting/organizing a character bible
    Some stuff I don’t know if you cover:
    Promoting one’s work
    Starting a newsletter or mailing list

  23. “How would you go about when creating stories for Childrens’ book as opposed to a novel?”
    I’m curious about your answer to this one, Larry. I’ve found that the same principles apply, even for my beginning-reader chapter books. But perhaps you have some specific insights?

  24. Paul Medus

    I have found that Scrivener is a tool that helps me align plot plots according to Story Engineering’s novel structure guidelines. Here I can visually see the placement of all the milestones, so this allows me to work on story continuity that includes in-depth development of the other components essential for writing a compelling tale from the beginning, through the middle, and right to the last period.

  25. Hey Larry,

    My apologies if I am repeating others, but here are some things I’d like to see:

    – POV, 1st person, 3rd person and how or if they can be blended, if at all.
    -Using prologues or epilogues. I know you have used them yourself, but should they be used, and why?
    -How to write, effectively an action sequence for a thriller, ie. fight scene, car chase. Is it a choreography of words?
    -Proper manuscript format, fonts, use of italics, white space, etc. I have seen some of your posts on this subject, and I have been able to string together what literary agents/publishers want, but it would be great to get it all from someone I trust – You!
    How to write a great ending. I know this is what takes a good book and makes it a great book. We all have great ideas on where to start, but finishing is the hardest, IMO.

    As always, I enjoy all you have to offer.

    Buried in snow in T.O.,Heidi.

  26. It would be interesting to hear your take on fitting scenes (& sequels) into a plot. How to craft them, make them fit your story philosophy, and how to make them unputdownable.

  27. Hi Larry,

    I only saw one other request for applying the core competecies to a series, but hope you’ll consider addressing this topic. Especially structure. And specifically structure over a three book series that reads like one long book.

    The first book of my second series sold over 1,000 eBooks on Amazon in January and still has a 4.5 (out of 5) star rating after 88 reviews. (I’m purposely NOT naming the book because I hate it when people self-promote on my blog). I credit a large part of this book’s modest success to applying what I learned from studying “Story Engineering.” I also recommend SE to everyone that asks me for writing advice.

    Anyway…even though my readers love the book, they’re complaining about the cliffhanger ending. I have no idea how to fix it (other than finishing the next book ASAP).

    I purchased your $100 story coaching service and found the questionaire alone worth the price. Thank you so much for sharing your expertise and making it affordable. You have a fan for life!

    Sincerely,
    Charlotte Abel

  28. Here’s some ideas, all from the things I’d talk to you about if I ran into you in a coffee shop somewhere.

    1) Reconciling having an awesome first 5 pages with a first plot point that occurs much later.

    2) Using Story Engineering effectively in writing a synopsis.

    3) Diving into the fourth act — your method may give just a bit too much freedom regarding what happens after the second plot point.

    4) A deeper analysis, maybe with more examples, of the “midpoint twist.”

    5) Great to see some more guest posts from others with great methods, i.e. Blake Snyder. How does Save the Cat map to Story Engineering, and vice versa?

    6) More on creating powerful antagonists, and distinguishing a great antagonist from a so-so “antagonist force.”

    Finally, I think some of the most powerful stuff you’ve done has involved breakdowns of other stories: “Hunger Games,” “Avatar,” and the “Da Vinci Code.” Let’s see more of those. I know it’s a lot of work for you, but I think those breakdowns really help. As I may have mentioned in another comment at the time, when I used your method to break down “Hunger Games,” it ended up looking very different from the breakdown that you posted. Alas, that made me feel that perhaps I still hadn’t gotten it.

    Thanks, Larry. You’re a super teacher!

  29. Martha

    I’d love a post on crafting the first opening sentence of a thriller . . . how to make it hook in the reader.
    Thanks for asking, Larry! You’ve gotten lots of good suggestions.

  30. I’d also love to see more story deconstructions, but I think it would be great to have one that your readers solve as each section is discussed. For example, in one post that talks about first plot point, talk in the post about the possibilities for FPP, to get people’s thoughts rolling, and then everyone can chime in the comments about what they think. Less work for you – more fun for us.

    Also, I love the idea of a Boot Camp, though I do hope it isn’t too expensive :). Something like Carol Tice’s Freelance Writer’s Den is just what I was hoping for.

  31. I’d like to see more story deconstructions too. Great work like on The Help. Also, more on how to disguise real life people and events and place them in fictions that tell a higher truth.

  32. I’d like to see three things:
    1. Deconstructions
    2. Deconstructions
    3. Deconstructions

  33. Christine

    I have loved the novel decontructions that you’ve done, but it’s a lot harder to try and *construct* a novel from scratch according to these plot points. What if you picked a lucky person willing to work with you in public (i.e. on the blog) as you take their ideas and help them craft a story which meets all of the plot points? Now that is something I’d love to see. I know that you do this for people who answer your questionnaires, but I think a lot of people would gain so much more insight on these concepts with an example going forward instead of just “looking back.”

  34. Tiny

    I’d love to see …

    1. Hooks … how to ensnare your reader with the first(s) lines
    2. Deconstruction of a trilogy where the storyline(s) bleed across the books (perhaps the deconstruction of a classic like The Lord of the Rings). Would help those of us looking to map a story that spans two or three books.
    3. The inner workings of Prologues and Epilogues, for stand alone novels and trilogies.
    4. Love the idea of a bootcamp. Would it be held in a forum setting, though, with Discussion Boards? Opportunity to interact with other members? Critique groups/beta readers?

    Thanks for everything you’ve covered thus far.

  35. I’d like to see a bit on where to start the story. I struggle with finding that perfect point to begin.

  36. Elaine M.

    I want you to know that I really appreciate the great teaching you offer so generously. Thank you for your offer to give suggestions.

    There are many good ideas here, but one of the things I would like most is something on how to write from a theme. There are times when I have wanted to do this, but I’ve found very little help anywhere on the subject.

  37. Hi Larry,

    I’d like to see more articles on short fiction. The one thing I learned so far is to jump right into the action. But, are the tentpoles different, or just compressed?

    Cheers,

    Mitch

  38. I would like advice on contract negotiations and what to expect, what to avoid etc.

    other than that, just keep them coming, I am always inspired by your blogs

  39. John McLain

    I would enjoy reading your analysis of how Hemingway’s novel, The Sun Also Rises, equates or matches the many excellent story structure points made in Story Engineering. Some critics said it was his finest novel, while others hammered it. In your own book, the analyses you provide on specific novels and films are really helpful. It’s truly an excellent book.

  40. Sabrina

    Please more Idea/ theme / character / concept,
    like in the beginning of the book.

    I really enjoyed the fresh and original way the book looked at this skill,
    it is not as easy as it sounds.

    Thanks,
    Sabrina

  41. Lynne

    Of the Six Core Competencies, the one I struggle with most is the Writing Voice: from which POV/s to tell the story. How to achieve a duet of voices without someone sounding off key.

    Thanks ~ Lynne

  42. Off tangent but question for you:

    I’m sure once I’m finished reading Story Engineering, I’ll have questions and comments. Is there like a fan page on Storyfix.com specifically for who people who have read the book to visit?

    You know, once I complete a book, I often find myself still high from the journey not wanting it to end. It’s only brief (1-2 weeks?) but feel would be good to channel that energy somewhere. If you don’t have one, maybe consider creating a simple page on the site. Doesn’t need to be complex. Just a simple WordPress Page with comments enabled. Is anything like that possible?

    BTW, if you do run with it and if possible, remove any of our comments not related to that specific book to keep it focused.

  43. Jon Holley

    I’d like to see character arc covered in more depth. It’s something that, for some reason, I just can’t seem to get my head around.

  44. Zoe

    Only recently discovered storyfix.com I’ve read your book, also currently working my way through the years of posts on the right hand side. Its really helped me turn my ‘idea’ into something more, and I don’t think I would have made anywhere near the amount of progress I have without your help! So thanks for that.

    I have two things that I’m still struggling on. The first one is my antagonist. I feel like I have two in my story, one is a virus and the other is the group of ‘bandits’ if you like who are revelling in the success of a post virus world. Im struggling to build on both past the mid point.

    The other thing is my ending, the issues I have building on this probably stem from my indecision on which way to go with my antagonistic forces, as above, and what is now driving them.

    I feel like my concept, theme, character arc (at least for the good guys) etc, are very strong, but I am struggling to outline past the midpoint. I can’t decide which way to go with it, and I think my confidence in building it up to something huge, which it really needs to be, is something I struggle with. The concept calls for a huge resolution but the thought of writing it makes me feel really small!

    So more on antagonist’s and more on endings (and perhaps knowing you are going the right way with them) for me.

    Also if you could break down the ‘rules/guidelines’ for aiming your story at a young adult audience, I would be interested to hear your thoughts on the differences.

  45. As the unofficial moderator of this post, I gathered all suggestions before this one and attempted to organize them between ideas on products/services and posts. Figured simply going through all the comments and making sense of them will take you a long time.

    I’m fairly new to Storyfix and its teachings (still trying to grasp it. The SE book can’t come fast enough) so hope my sorting and grouping is of some use.

    Paid services
    ——————————————-

    Based on the below opinions, everybody seems warm to the bootcamp idea

    – And, on an extraneous note, the “boot camp” idea is a great one, and I must just have to sign up for it …
    – Boot camp idea is definitely intriguing, especially the deblanking the mind part.
    – Hey I’m all for the idea of the “boot camp” seminar or any sort of writing course but online rather then in person because I live on the land of Oz amongst the Koalas with no magical abilities so I cannot conjure coins to pay for a plane ticket, at least not until I manage to finish something worth publishing and considering that I have been working on your questionnaire for nearly 6 months I don’t see that happening any time soon hahaha.
    – I’d definitely be in favor of webinars. The full boot camp would be great. Maybe you could do some shorter ones on specific topics. Something like a month long seminar on developing theme, or going from idea to concept?
    – I like this “boot camp” idea a lot!
    – The “boot camp” is a wonderful idea! Thanks for the great coaching and information. I’ve learned so much!
    – Also, I love the idea of a Boot Camp, though I do hope it isn’t too expensive . Something like Carol Tice’s Freelance Writer’s Den is just what I was hoping for.
    – Love the idea of a bootcamp. Would it be held in a forum setting, though, with Discussion Boards? Opportunity to interact with other members? Critique groups/beta readers?
    – Compelling Concepts. Establishing a compelling concept sounds like a no-brainer for us to get right after all the information, examples, and explanation you have provided. But, as you recently posted, this is something you see a lot. You have a $35 Conceptual Story Analysis, which includes the first plot point. Does it make sense to critique a concept, independent of the first plot point being defined? Or is it required that the FPP is either implied or stated in the concept description? I have numerous concepts I would love feedback on, but I haven’t established the first plot point. I just have a 1-2 paragraph description of the concepts. I think they are concepts, but maybe I’m wrong, maybe they’re just ideas that need more thought. If there was just a quick response of “Great concept”, or Great concept, but…”, or “This is just an idea, read my blog”, it would save me from moving forward on something that is lacking. The comments made for “Beware the Under-Cooked Story Concept” post contained a few concepts, which you gave feedback on. I would like to see more of that. Maybe a writer forum for us to share concepts among ourselves, with your comments as time permits. This is what I’m thinking, submitting a concept like in the comment posts, with feedback to validate that the concept is well, valid. Maybe even another tiered paid service: $?? Concept Validation/Comments, $35 Conceptual Kick-Start Story Analysis, $100 Professional Story Coaching

    Post ideas
    ———————————————

    Ideas to fill the Storyfix site for days to come.

    ### Deconstruction

    The people have spoken in one voice: Give us more story deconstructions… please.

    – Chris Norbury: I’d like to see more novel deconstructions. They’re incredibly illustrative to me. I even tried one myself on “Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn. They really help with seeing examples of Plot Points, inciting incidents, midpoints, and the rest.
    – Joanna Aislinn: I’m in full agreement with Chris. Recently finished STORY ENGINEERING and starting to ‘see’ some of the milestones, but don’t feel confident enough to say I “own” it yet. Just starting my first official deconstruction for THE UNDERSIDE OF JOY. Definitely follows a formula and even so I’m questioning myself, lol.
    – Shaun: I also second the novel deconstructions. Very useful. Perhaps one in each genre.
    – Veronica Sicoe: Novel deconstructions are very useful. Nothing beats examples in an area all too covered by theory.
    – John Baxter: More deconstruction of novels and films, especially those that have a subtle plot point that are easy to miss. The deconstruction of “An Education” and the comments you made regarding “500 Days of Summer” were enlightening. I would like to see more of that type of story given a structure analysis.
    – Judith Robl: And I’m all for more deconstructions. They show clearly how a story works and why. Unfortunately, I haven’t read some of those books, so if we could have a heads up about what book would be the next subject of deconstruction, we could do the homework of being sure we’ve read it recently.
    – Donna Lodge: Would also like info on identifying and analyzing set-ups and pay-offs in a story/stories you will be deconstructing on storyfix.com.
    – Craig: Finally, I think some of the most powerful stuff you’ve done has involved breakdowns of other stories: “Hunger Games,” “Avatar,” and the “Da Vinci Code.” Let’s see more of those. I know it’s a lot of work for you, but I think those breakdowns really help. As I may have mentioned in another comment at the time, when I used your method to break down “Hunger Games,” it ended up looking very different from the breakdown that you posted. Alas, that made me feel that perhaps I still hadn’t gotten it.
    – Rachel: I’d also love to see more story deconstructions, but I think it would be great to have one that your readers solve as each section is discussed. For example, in one post that talks about first plot point, talk in the post about the possibilities for FPP, to get people’s thoughts rolling, and then everyone can chime in the comments about what they think. Less work for you – more fun for us.
    – Shirley Willis: I’d like to see more story deconstructions too. Great work like on The Help.
    – Shane Arthur: I’d like to see three things: 1. Deconstructions 2. Deconstructions 3. Deconstructions
    – Christine: I have loved the novel decontructions that you’ve done, but it’s a lot harder to try and *construct* a novel from scratch according to these plot points. What if you picked a lucky person willing to work with you in public (i.e. on the blog) as you take their ideas and help them craft a story which meets all of the plot points? Now that is something I’d love to see. I know that you do this for people who answer your questionnaires, but I think a lot of people would gain so much more insight on these concepts with an example going forward instead of just “looking back.”
    – I would enjoy reading your analysis of how Hemingway’s novel, The Sun Also Rises, equates or matches the many excellent story structure points made in Story Engineering. Some critics said it was his finest novel, while others hammered it. In your own book, the analyses you provide on specific novels and films are really helpful. It’s truly an excellent book.
    – Craig: A deeper analysis, maybe with more examples, of the “midpoint twist.”

    ### Trilogy

    I’m only bumping this up because I am biased and shameless.

    – How do you map a story that will span two books? Think like the Harry Potter series.
    – I have a question regarding a book series. I know the preferred way of handling the plot of each book is to make them standalone as oppose to having the plots bleed into one another forcing you to read them in order. I want to know if there are guidelines beyond that.
    – how to end a book that’s part of a trilogy, so that the reader wants more, instead of being pissed off it wasn’t a standalone
    – I only saw one other request for applying the core competecies to a series, but hope you’ll consider addressing this topic. Especially structure. And specifically structure over a three book series that reads like one long book. The first book of my second series sold over 1,000 eBooks on Amazon in January and still has a 4.5 (out of 5) star rating after 88 reviews. (I’m purposely NOT naming the book because I hate it when people self-promote on my blog). I credit a large part of this book’s modest success to applying what I learned from studying “Story Engineering.” I also recommend SE to everyone that asks me for writing advice. Anyway…even though my readers love the book, they’re complaining about the cliffhanger ending. I have no idea how to fix it (other than finishing the next book ASAP).
    – Tiny: Deconstruction of a trilogy where the storyline(s) bleed across the books (perhaps the deconstruction of a classic like The Lord of the Rings). Would help those of us looking to map a story that spans two or three books.

    ### Characters / POV

    – More on creating powerful antagonists, and distinguishing a great antagonist from a so-so “antagonist force.”
    – How do you introduce characters into a story?
    – Words to use to describe how a character looks?
    – How to show a character’s state of emotion?s
    – How do you find a name that fits each character? And doesn’t sound phony?
    – How do you go about getting into a character and finding his voice so when the different story characters speak, they don’t all sound the same? For example, if a character is a French anarchist fellow, what would you do to get in that character’s way of speaking?
    – Point of view, especially how to choose who the POV characters should be, Weaving story threads, Starting/organizing a character bible
    – POV, 1st person, 3rd person and how or if they can be blended, if at all.
    – I’d like to see character arc covered in more depth. It’s something that, for some reason, I just can’t seem to get my head around.
    – Of the Six Core Competencies, the one I struggle with most is the Writing Voice: from which POV/s to tell the story. How to achieve a duet of voices without someone sounding off key.
    – How to mix the right amount of dialogue with description– that’s a subject I’d lke to see covered.
    – I have two things that I’m still struggling on. The first one is my antagonist. I feel like I have two in my story, one is a virus and the other is the group of ‘bandits’ if you like who are revelling in the success of a post virus world. Im struggling to build on both past the mid point.

    ### Beginnings & Endings

    – I’d love a post on crafting the first opening sentence of a thriller . . . how to make it hook in the reader.
    – I’d like to see a bit on where to start the story. I struggle with finding that perfect point to begin.
    – All of the above. I’m just started on my copy of SE and wrestling mightily with concept, so a post or forum where people weigh in on strengths or weakness of a specific concept would be great.
    – And for those of us who discovered SE later rather than sooner, how long to let the body lay in the grave before digging it back up again?
    – Larry, I think I’ve read everything you’ve written, in one form or another, and I teach from your excellent STORY ENGINEERING, but when it comes to endings, I would like . . . something more. You speak of structuring well, and the magic that results when a writer thinks about the ending. It’s true that “story structure empowers an effective ending.” Yes, I’ve seen this happen in my books (she says modestly). But for those uncertain moments, the 3 AM moments when you wonder about the ending, whether it is strong enough, could you give us some more thoughts? Perhaps you could even dissect some well-known endings and help us see what makes them effective. Larry, you may have already covered this topic in depth and I have missed it. A summary at least would be helpful.
    – How to write a great ending. I know this is what takes a good book and makes it a great book. We all have great ideas on where to start, but finishing is the hardest, IMO.
    – Using prologues or epilogues. I know you have used them yourself, but should they be used, and why?
    – The inner workings of Prologues and Epilogues, for stand alone novels and trilogies.
    – I have two things that I’m still struggling on. The other thing is my ending, the issues I have building on this probably stem from my indecision on which way to go with my antagonistic forces, as above, and what is now driving them. I feel like my concept, theme, character arc (at least for the good guys) etc, are very strong, but I am struggling to outline past the midpoint. I can’t decide which way to go with it, and I think my confidence in building it up to something huge, which it really needs to be, is something I struggle with. The concept calls for a huge resolution but the thought of writing it makes me feel really small!. So more on antagonist’s and more on endings (and perhaps knowing you are going the right way with them) for me.

    ### Plots

    Don’t fully understand plots but put everything subplots and plot related here.

    – Pushing your sub-plots into really advancing the story
    – how many subplots are too many, and which kinds of main plots support multiple subplots successfully
    – how to spot and correct weak (superficial) plotting in a subplot
    – I’d like to see info on how to plot set-ups and pay-offs as you structure your story.
    – It would be interesting to hear your take on fitting scenes (& sequels) into a plot. How to craft them, make them fit your story philosophy, and how to make them unputdownable.
    – Reconciling having an awesome first 5 pages with a first plot point that occurs much later.

    ### General writing

    Except for the first one, I seem to be the only one asking for general writing pointers.

    – Hooks … how to ensnare your reader with the first(s) lines
    – What to do for people who have a hard time to expressing their thought in paper?
    – What you do to prepare yourself to be at your most creative peak?
    – How do you improve your writing style?
    – How to best “draw” a scene in your head into your reader’s mind?
    – Exercises that improve your writing

    ### Promotions+

    – Promoting one’s work
    – Starting a newsletter or mailing list
    – I would like advice on contract negotiations and what to expect, what to avoid etc.
    – When do you know a story will resonate with a large audience?

    ### Story

    Some comments were not enough to create its own section or I didn’t understand, so added them all below. Though within this section still tried grouping them where it made some sense to me.

    __Specifics__
    – How would you go about when creating stories for Childrens’ book as opposed to a novel?
    – “How would you go about when creating stories for Childrens’ book as opposed to a novel?” I’m curious about your answer to this one, Larry. I’ve found that the same principles apply, even for my beginning-reader chapter books. But perhaps you have some specific insights?
    – How would this you apply the core competencies to books that teach? (stretching it, I know. Good thinking exercise )
    – Also, more on how to disguise real life people and events and place them in fictions that tell a higher truth.
    – I’d like to see more articles on short fiction. The one thing I learned so far is to jump right into the action. But, are the tentpoles different, or just compressed?
    – Using Story Engineering effectively in writing a synopsis.
    – How does picture book work with your principles?
    – Also if you could break down the ‘rules/guidelines’ for aiming your story at a young adult audience, I would be interested to hear your thoughts on the differences.

    __Theme__
    – How about the subject of theme? I can actually see this being several posts: how to choose one, how to discover one, rewriting to strengthen one.
    – There are many good ideas here, but one of the things I would like most is something on how to write from a theme. There are times when I have wanted to do this, but I’ve found very little help anywhere on the subject.

    __Editing__
    – It would be great to have more features on editing. What to do with a finished manuscript to chisel out and hone issues of theme and character arc, as well as the ‘must-haves’ for individual scenes (dialogue, descriptors, beginning-middle-end and so forth). I would really like to see your take on the topic.
    – Proper manuscript format, fonts, use of italics, white space, etc. I have seen some of your posts on this subject, and I have been able to string together what literary agents/publishers want, but it would be great to get it all from someone I trust – You!

    __Uncategorized__
    – Creating suspense / build up into the climax
    – How do you add suspense into a story?
    – How to organize concisely into chapters
    – What tips do you have about describing the scenery and inanimate objects in a story? How far do you go into it? When and where is it appropriate?
    – How to add emotion into a story and pull your reader’s string of emotions?
    – Please more Idea/ theme / character / concept, like in the beginning of the book. I really enjoyed the fresh and original way the book looked at this skill, it is not as easy as it sounds.
    – How to write, effectively an action sequence for a thriller, ie. fight scene, car chase. Is it a choreography of words?
    – For me, you use a term “sequencing” which covers several scenes and I would really appreciate learning more about how to use this technique properly. I ditto everything requested so far.
    – Diving into the fourth act — your method may give just a bit too much freedom regarding what happens after the second plot point.
    – I wanna talk about a structure that breathes and introducing joy into the writing
    – Trolling for critique groups/beta readers. How, where, how many and esp. finding peers to work with.
    – Create an infographic for each core competencies for the visual people. *Further elaboration from Steve:* Sometimes topics begin to become clear only until you see a visual “map” with everything laid out. For example, I can write/talk on how the media landscape has changed over the years: magazines came first, then TV, then websites, then blogs, etc but it doesn’t have the same impact as seeing a picture. Notice how everything clicks when you see the images at http://www.baekdal.com/analysis/market-of-information I think that’s what’s missing for me. Something to wrap it all up visually. To see everything at once. To refine my earlier suggestion, I would say 1. create an inforgraphic/picture covering all six core competencies as a whole. 2. create another for _each_ six core competencies 3. create another for all elements a story needs (ex: first comes the inciting incident?, then first plot point, then the second plot point, etc) Hope that makes better sense. For the record, I am not asking for a timeline but something along those lines. The picture doesn’t need to be to that level of quality. I can offer to freely help create the images if need be (though my skills aren’t as good as in that link)

    Miscellaneous
    ———————————

    Have nothing to do with “filling in the Storyfix course curriculum” or “ideas on the product/services side”

    – Great to see some more guest posts from others with great methods, i.e. Blake Snyder. How does Save the Cat map to Story Engineering, and vice versa?
    – Now the following is not a topic but how about every now and then creating videos as a change of pace. Saw one video of you somewhere (can’t remember where now though) and you speak well. More would be nice.
    – I’m sure once I’m finished reading Story Engineering, I’ll have questions and comments. Is there like a fan page on Storyfix.com specifically for who people who have read the book to visit? You know, once I complete a book, I often find myself still high from the journey not wanting it to end. It’s only brief (1-2 weeks?) but feel would be good to channel that energy somewhere. If you don’t have one, maybe consider creating a simple page on the site. Doesn’t need to be complex. Just a simple WordPress Page with comments enabled. Is anything like that possible?

    Hope that helps everyone.

  46. You’re a brave man, Larry. When it comes to writing, there just aren’t enough hours in a day to cover it all. But I’d like to see more about Openings, Hooks, Inciting Incidents.

    Either way, your take and views on everything is always on the mark. Thank you for sharing. Really look forward to getting your next book Story Physics soon. Love the way you spell it out!

  47. Olga Oliver

    GREAT DAY IN THE MORNING!! Larry, you need to open a LARRY BROOK’S WRITING UNIVERSITY. Why not?

  48. Scene Missions.

    Compared to what everyone else has asked for it seems that this would be really simple but,…
    As my Beat Sheet evolves so does the missions in each scene. Unless I’m getting to the point of over thinking this, isn’t a “beat sheet” the same as “missions” when it comes to breaking down scenes for outlining?
    Right now I have several scenes listed. The first scene has a title, and next to that title there is “Mission(s):” which state what I want this scene to accomplish…..

    ummm…….just had an epiphany….I’m going to go work on that

    On a side note. Your special guest post on Men with Pens about Theme is, to date, the best I’ve read and on my blog I point it out to everyone. Of course when I made that post I didn’t know about your site (or you, sorry 🙂 until later.
    When I realized it was you I became a regular visitor to the Storyfix site and have learned more in the past 2 months here, than I have in the past year every where else (I used to cringe every time I needed to sift through all the bookmarks I’ve accumulated about learning to write.)

    Looking forward to what Storyfix does with all the great questions.

  49. Stephanie

    Now I do have a question. (After working on that epiphany)

    Do you (or can you) structure Scenes like you would the entire story? Example:
    (using wording from my last post)
    I have a scene with title, under that I have “mission(s)”, then I list what I want to accomplish like: Intro characters, conflict and resolution of that scene. Under all that I list in order one sentence each of what is going on and what action each character is taking. Ending the list with the resolution. Then I move on to the next scene which is the resolution being accomplished yet the cycle starts over; Intro, Conflict, Resolution, etc.
    Is this over working or can I add more depth to the scene by applying other aspects of the Story Structure (or is it Story Engineering? I’m trying not to confuse myself or anyone else 🙂 to each as it gets closer to the FPP (or even through out the entire novel?)

  50. Britta Esmail

    Would love to see more about a few things:

    1) structure of dialogue and when to best employ dialogue vs. internal narrative for example

    2) Beginning and endings – what works what doesn’t

    Thank you:-)

  51. Jim

    Hi Larry,

    I’ve cast aside a lot of theory to make room for your very workable concepts.
    Many starting writers I see are stumped at the concept of designing and implementing the basic scene. Without the ability to produce this story building block the rest is pointless.
    Any chance to dwell on this issue for a couple of installments.

    Thank you

    Jim

  52. Joseph Newcum

    As I am in the midst of planning something that Nicholas Sparks might do, I would love for you to reconstruct ‘The Notebook’ — the novel, not the movie.

    Essentially, how are sappy stories constructed rather than dramas or thrillers and such.

  53. Bonnie Jean

    I want to learn where to strike the balance in backstory. I swap stories with a writer friend. I keep telling her to cut backstory and she keeps telling me to add it. I believe that the reader only needs to know enough to propel the story forward but my friend wants more. Where’s the balance? If you’ve already written about this then please direct me to the info.

    Thanks!

  54. I enjoy and learn from all your topics, but I do love the movie and book deconstructions – they teach by showing. Thanks so much for all you do.

  55. Would love to see you dig into three consecutive scenes of a novel or movie and concentrate solely on the “mission of the scene.”

  56. Susan Gregory

    Please deconstruct an ‘old classic’ such as To Kill a Mockingbird or Sound of Music.
    Thank you!

  57. I am struggling with making my bad guy a real character, but still a villain. Where’s the balance there, and how can we make the bad guy someone who’s real but who the readers still truly hate?

  58. Steve5, I am blown away by your breakdown of all the posters suggestions. I think you will love story structure!

    Cheers,
    Heidi.

  59. Kris

    Hi Larry, you cover the structure so well. How about some lessons on crafting the meat for those skeletal plot and pinch points?

  60. I love your deconstructions of current films. It makes it much easier to see where the plot points are and how to build tension when one has the visual right there. And since the same ‘rules’ apply to novels, I find your analyses very helpful.

  61. Colin

    I’d love to see more on constructing scenes and making scenes fit together as part of the overall story. Your overall story structure model seems very easy to grasp, but I’ve run into trouble trying to get it to mesh with Swain’s scenes/sequels model. A post that shows how you can tie the two together (or explains why you don’t need to) would be very helpful.

  62. Sara Davies

    Are the external events (plot) supposed to cause character change (arc)? If so, the core of a story would be that process of inner change, and the plot designed to facilitate that change – ?

  63. @Heidi

    Ah, for a moment I thought nobody had read the summary. Sweet!

    The man here works hard. Just my minor contribution. I actually learned a lil’ bit simply from doing that breakdown.

    I have no formal education in this area (e.g. writing or screenplay) so I’m likely behind. But I love telling stories (in the general sense, not publishing) everywhere I go. It’s what I am all about.

    Broadly speaking, I dislike rules. My head is full of images, thoughts and ideas bouncing all over. And I like it like that. However, I’ve learned, rather painfully over the years, that structure and guidelines offer a platform to get things done in a focused way. So I am definitely looking to learn more.

    Maybe I’m slow but it just hasn’t clicked for me yet. Maybe it’s because I’m a visual person? Either way, when it does, I’ll likely create my own suggested visual ‘map’.

    Or could be I need to read through the SE book, which Amazon claims is coming tomorrow at the earliest.

    PS: I think I’m naturally drawn to order after creating chaos.

  64. Kathy

    I don’t always get the First Plot Point vs. the inciting incident. Could you, maybe, just give a list of classic stories – and their FPP ? For some reason, this is a tough one for me.

    Thank you – and thank you for all of your posts and hard work on our behalf. It is much appreciated.

  65. Robert Jones

    @Steve5

    If you like making order out of chaos, SE should prove an interesting read for you. In terms of “hating rules,” you’re among friends. But I also feel the general dislike of rules is because there are too many of them in any of the arts when taken at a glance. My feelings are that if a “rule” takes you deeper into your craft, it’s more of a “solution.” And if it solves a problem for you, or takes you deeper, then it’s necesary. Many of the rules are adopted (or popular) opinions. Learning the difference between an opinion and a solution can take time, but it’s usually time well spent. The problem with writing is a great many people believe it’s an easier art, just put words together until your ide forms into some type of story on the page. And from the millions who seem to be publishing as indy authors, that’s a whole lot of people giving into that particular “opinion.”

    In the end, it’s like learning to play the piano. It takes a little time and respect for one’s art, but that’s half the fun, if one is serious. It can be frustrating, and you often just want to bang the keys in hopes of producing music. But the better aquanted the musician becomes, the closer he gets to composing something everyone will enjoy, and not want to cover their ears.

    The same thing applies to the craft of writing. A lot of anxious would-be authors flung their work into the fray while it was still not much more than chaos. Their mistakes have now become part of our solution–at least in showing the rest of us how NOT to ignore everything concerning craft, to give it at least as much respect as any of the other arts, and that the public will not come simply because you build it. They need to feel the structure is sound enough to support them, and that the roof won’t fall in on their heads. And most folks who read regularly, writers or not, have a basic sense of whether or not the beams are leaning and the floor crumbling. Few can wing it. How many out of the millions have though?

    Anyway, that’s my philosphy on such things. Hopefully some will find it helpful when seperating the rules from opinions and not throw out the baby with the bath water by lumping baby as bathwater and calling it all the same thing. I’ve read so much of that lately that I felt the need to rant on it a little here–with all due respect to those trying to find their way. It’s hard. But isn’t everything worth doing a bit of work? I would say, “Or everyone would be doing it,” but it seems most everyone has tried in terms of writing. And proven some assembly is most deffinitely required.

    @Sara–just saw your response in other post and replied there. Been pretty busy lately.

  66. Hey, Larry. Maybe this isn’t worthy of an entire post, but I’ve been wondering something about Part 4. I know it’s a bad idea to introduce expositional info after the second plot point, and it’s particularly dismal to introduce a new character after that point. But what if that character has been foreshadowed (or even seen from afar), but not actually met by the main character? Is that still a bad idea?

  67. Laura

    Long time subscriber, first time commenter. I love the deconstructions and would like to see more. (And thank you for diving so quickly into another one before I got a chance to add my two cents!)

    As others have said, I’d like to see a breakdown of a series, whether its a tightly-plotted series that reads like a really big book or a more open-ended one. In general, could you deconstruct something that isn’t in the theater and isn’t likely to be?

  68. Sara Davies

    Another question, huge problem: What if you’ve got a story idea for a complex topic that requires knowledge you do not possess? I’ve done a boatload of research for my current project, and still don’t feel I know enough, or can come to know enough, to cover it intelligently/convincingly. My only hope is to manipulate point of view as a work-around.

  69. Rebecca

    Hi Larry,
    Can you explain in more detail what Pinch Points are and how to use them? Thanks!

  70. Hi — you ask about Pinch Points. There are 39 posts on Storyfix that discuss them, most in context to the larger context of structure and/or a specific story. The “intro” post is here:

    http://storyfix.com/story-structure-series-9-%E2%80%93-pinch-points

    There is a SEARCH function in the right-hand column, where you can find all of those posts, and any other topic-specific focus. L.

  71. Dave H

    Larry, I really resonate with all that you have put together about the *mission* that we should understand and implement for each scene. Since that’s a powerful ‘functional’ view, I find myself connecting that to my engineering days with ‘functional analysis’ which had the wisdom to focus on the right *verb* to describe the functionality of each element in a system. In my naive place on your SE learning curve I could be off – but it’s seeming like it might help (me, at least) to focus on the right one or few verbs that really put their finger on the ‘functional’ accomplishments required in an upcoming scene (find this, neutralize that, see such-and-such, meet so-and-so, etc.). Maybe that’s either trivial/obvious or not quite right, but I’d enjoy hearing you tease out a bit more on that topic.

  72. @Dave – great idea, I can see a good post on that empowering little shift in verb. On it. Thanks much for this, and your kind words. L.

  73. Dave H

    @Larry,
    Thanks. Another little bit from engineering world that seems to fit (and why not with Story Engineering in play?) – is the notion of ‘user stories’ which are used to shorthand ‘requirements’ (so.. capturing necessary functionality) – the simple extension of the verb/object notion is expressed as ‘actor’ needs to be able to ‘verb’ — which seems very story friendly.
    The actor could be the reader or viewer or one of the players in the story… but it does seem to be one way to bring out detail (if useful) on the mission of a scene…to list each ‘actor’ and the verb that describes what the need to ‘accomplish’ in that mission.
    I have a feeling this will flow well in your ongoing story engineering work – looking forward to the ways you think that might fit.
    Best,
    Dave

  74. In your book Story Engineering, I am confused by the Midpoint. I understand it is the point in which the hero changes from response to attack but what I don’t understand is how is that possible if the hero is not shown what is behind the “curtain.” You mention the curtain may be parted for the reader only (COMA), but then the heroine continues in the response mode. I am assuming that something must trigger the change and then would that not be the real Midpoint if the curtain had parted earlier for the reader?

    thanks, I took my nanowrimo story, flushed it out and now I am getting the story structure down. I think it is easier to write from a full outline than try to figure out what is wrong. lol

  75. Trish

    I’d love to see an excellent short story deconstructed. It could even be one from the public domain, so you could reproduce it here. It would be wonderfully helpful! Thank you for asking, by the way, whether or not you pick up on the idea.

  76. Dave H

    This might be old hat, or even tucked away somewhere I haven’t yet found in this deep and wide site….but I’d be interested in more insights re: ‘wrong moves to avoid.’ Sure there are ‘obvious’ cliches surely have been discussed here and elsewhere — but what about two other situations?
    (1) A subtly wrong move that I might not see when I do it – but others would see it right away, and
    (2) I might avoid what would seem to be a too-common or wrong move, when really, with a little twist I’d be a fool not to put it to work.
    I guess I’m looking for a little guidance on how to know when you’re in one of those two situations, and some tips for making progress from there.