A Call for Storyfix Post Topics

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by Larry Brooks on February 8, 2013

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.) 

 

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{ 76 comments… read them below or add one }

Jim February 10, 2013 at 9:39 pm

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

Joseph Newcum February 11, 2013 at 6:06 am

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.

Bonnie Jean February 11, 2013 at 7:47 am

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!

mindy sitton-halleck February 11, 2013 at 9:03 am

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.

Bret Bernal February 11, 2013 at 9:51 am

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

Susan Gregory February 11, 2013 at 10:42 am

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

Jessica Flory February 11, 2013 at 2:13 pm

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?

Heidi February 11, 2013 at 2:38 pm

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

Cheers,
Heidi.

Kris February 11, 2013 at 2:52 pm

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

Gabi Coatsworth February 11, 2013 at 3:09 pm

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.

Colin February 11, 2013 at 4:59 pm

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.

Sara Davies February 11, 2013 at 5:02 pm

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 – ?

Steve5 February 12, 2013 at 10:59 am

@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.

Kathy February 13, 2013 at 7:05 am

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.

Robert Jones February 13, 2013 at 10:27 pm

@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.

Arza February 14, 2013 at 2:57 pm

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?

Laura February 16, 2013 at 2:43 pm

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?

Sara Davies February 19, 2013 at 1:02 pm

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.

Rebecca February 26, 2013 at 12:46 pm

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

Larry February 26, 2013 at 1:16 pm

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.

Dave H March 17, 2013 at 4:45 am

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.

Larry March 17, 2013 at 11:36 am

@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.

Dave H March 17, 2013 at 1:39 pm

@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

Gayle Messick March 17, 2013 at 2:36 pm

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

Trish March 19, 2013 at 2:52 pm

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.

Dave H March 20, 2013 at 3:12 pm

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.

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