Meet The Storyfixer

My name is Larry Brooks, and I’d like to thank you for visiting here at Storyfix.

ABOUT THIS BLOG…

(Updated 02/24/15)

Here’s the intro elevator pitch for those who like their “About” sections short and sweet. 

I’m a career writer from the corporate sector who, like most of you, had nourished the fiction writing dream the entire time.  I’ve since published six novels, a couple of them with modestly respectable resumes, all of them nicely reviewed.  I’ve written two bestselling writing books, with a third coming out in August 2015 (all published by Writers Digest Books).  I also do a lot of workshops and conferences at the behest of writing groups and clubs, and I operate a story coaching service based right here out of this blog.

Oh, there are a few ebooks kicking around out there, too.

Now for the backstory, if you’d care to stick around.

The genesis of this blog comes from the thousands of folks who have attended my writing workshops. The consensus is this: “I’ve been attending writing workshops for many years, and I’ve read all the how-to books, and this is not only the best and clearest thing I’ve heard, it’s the first time someone has actually shown me how to write a novel (and/or a screenplay), structurally and thematically.” The developmental model referenced in that consensus feedback is what I call “The Six Core Competencies of Successful Storytelling,” which is the topic of my book by nearly the same name.

That led me to write another book, “Story Physics: Harnessing the Underlying Forces of Storytelling,” which explains why those six core competencies work, and can be found in virtually every successful piece of fiction ever written.

Writing workshops and how-to books come in all flavors and intentions. But rarely is the process broken down into specific developmental criteria, from concept to character to sequence and theme, with a vision for how all the parts come together to become a whole in excess of their parts. This blog is based on that breakdown.

I do not advocate one process over another. 

This stuff works for story planners and story pantsers alike, and everything in between.

My message to writers who wish to publish or succeed as a self-published author is this: the bar is very high, the market is very crowded, and the standards and criteria for effective storytelling are very clear and accessible, though perhaps lost within the din of the writing conversation.  The moment you declare an intention to publish, to write professionally, you are signing up for a tidy and largely inflexible list of those requisite criteria, formats and expectations, the nature of which applies directly to what you write.  If you want to make up your own form and function of storytelling, the road is even longer.

There is only one thing you have control over in this business, and it’s not your career (which, once you put your writing out there is largely out of your hands, to be honest) – it’s your manuscript. It doesn’t need to be perfect, but it does need to be better than perfectly fine. It needs to grab an agent or an editor who has seen it all before by the throat and squeeze.

This blog is about how you can evolve your work to that level.

ABOUT THE BLOGGER: LARRY BROOKS…

larrybrooks

Other than a 17-year stint in the marketing and training business, Larry Brooks’ resume reads like a Cheesecake Factory menu. Born and raised in Portland, Oregon in 1952, he graduated with a degree in marketing communications from Portland State University in 1975, attended in the off-season during an unremarkable five-year career as a professional baseball player (he pitched in the Texas Rangers organization). This led to his first published writing: a magazine article on the life of a minor league pitcher. Still not keen on a writing career – the money sucked then, too – came a few more swings and misses: history’s worst stockbroker for the world’s largest brokerage firm, the world’s worst personnel manager in a department store (remember what Dirty Harry said about Personnel managers?), and a couple of other humbling fliers he chooses to forget. Each abandoned career resulted in another published magazine piece lampooning the experience, and his interest in writing began to emerge as his best – and perhaps last – viable career option.

He was also the voice behind the airport public address announcement we all hate (“No stopping or parking on the roadway in front of the terminal,  violators will be cited and towed,” et al) for 14 years at PDX (Portland International Airport).  As claims to fame go, this is as anonymous as it gets.

In 1983 he answered an ad for a “script writer” at a small audio-visual production company – eight art majors and a slide projector. Cut to 1996, when the company was one of the largest marketing and training firms in the western U.S., and Brooks was the executive creative director and a partner, with 100-plus employees and a portfolio with more corporate videos, brochures and other useless stuff than Harlequin has romances. The business sold in 1999, at which point Brooks took the money and ran toward the career he’d been quietly cultivating on the side for the prior two decades – writing novels and screenplays. And now, as a novelist/blogger/freelancer/workshop speaker and story coach.

His first published novel, DARKNESS BOUND, was based on one of his original screenplays, featuring – here’s a surprise – a stockbroker who hates stockbrokering. It debuted in October 2000, spending three weeks on the USA Today bestseller list. His second novel, PRESSURE POINTS – an ad exec who hates the ad business – appeared to good reviews in December 2001, with comparable sales. His third novel, SERPENT’S DANCE, was a February 2003 release from Signet, also well reviewed despite selling like parkas in Pakistan, and his fourth, July 2004’s BAIT AND SWITCH , earned a starred review from Publishers Weekly, who named it their lead Editor’s Choice for that month, and at year-end to two of their notable lists: Best Books of 2004 (lead entry, mass market), and Best Overlooked Books of 2004 (the only paperback so named; perhaps, says Larry, a dubious honor he should not be bragging about).

Since then he has written two novels : DEADLY FAUX (the sequel to 2004’s BAIT AND SWITCH, published by Turner Publishing in 2013) and THE SEVENTH THUNDER, a secular apocalyptic thriller (2014, also from Turner Publishing).

In late 2002, Brooks’ script for the adaptation of DARKNESS BOUND was named a finalist in the Don and Gee Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting, sponsored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the folks who bring you the Oscars. It was one of ten scripts selected out of 6044 submissions, which he hopes you find impressive, especially since he didn’t end up winning one of the five Fellowships. Too dark, they said.

He did get to spend an afternoon kicking around the craft of storytelling with Frank Darabont during his week in L.A. for that contest, which, if you’ve ever seen “The Shawshank Redemption” you’ll agree is a big deal.

Brooks has been developing and teaching writing workshops since the mid-1980s. He has been named a Mentor by the Oregon Writer’s Colony, and continues to teach at workshops around the country (“Call me,” he whispers here).  His first writing book, “Story Engineering: Mastering The Six Core Competencies of Successful Writing,” was released in early 2011 from Writers Digest Books, based on the popular developmental model upon which he bases his workshops… and this blog.

Brooks is very happily married to his wife of 20 years, Laura, an artist and interior designer (who assures everyone who has read Larry’s first novel that she is not The Dark Lady).  He also has a wonderful son, Nelson, who is 25; three supportive step-children, Tracy, Scott and Kelly (two of whom have read all his books, none of whom want me to reveal their ages); and seven step-grandchildren who have absolutely no clue what “Poppy” does for a living.

Larry and Laura live in Scottsdale AZ, where he is busy coaching other writers, writing this blog and working on a small truckload of emerging projects.

Again, thanks for stopping by.

145 Responses to Meet The Storyfixer

  1. Pingback: Monday Advice from Editors and Agents: Is Your Plot Contrived? | Tangled Words

  2. Hi Larry

    Thanks for your feedback on my last question. Well said.

    Just want you to know that I have just signed a contract with Penguin for my first novel. I have your book and one other your recommended, and your blogs to thank for showing me the importance of structure. I couldn’t have done it without you. Thank you for putting it out there.

  3. @Rosetta — HUGE congrats on your Penguin contract, and thanks so much for the kind words. Here’s to your massive success going forward! Larry

  4. Rick Treter

    Dear Storyfix.com Team,

    I was abruptly caught up with your website “Storyfix.com”. Do you make enough sales from it? No???? May I put together some issues that are deterring success? A quick rundown of your website:

    1. Fewer back links vis-à-vis competition.
    2. Website requiring improvement to comply current/latest Google Penguin 1.1 update.
    3. Social media efforts must address your core marketing and branding needs.
    4. Website landing pages must be enhanced keeping the usability and sale conversion point in mind.

    Nevertheless this is a partial list. You can request a “Free Website Audit” revealing your current situation coupled with a roadmap of making your business thriving with optimal return on investment.

    Sounds interesting? Let’s speak. We assure that you won’t hesitate speaking with us.

    Yours Truly,

    Rick Treter,
    Asst. Vice President – Digital Marketing.

    The SEO Inc – A Division of Insight Marketers
    Website: http://www.theseoinc.com
    Skype: rick.seoinc
    Phone # 1-209-748-4200
    Gharunda IT Complex, Sector 9
    Navi Mumbai – 400701

    ================================================================================================

    The subject matter contained in this email is for the external promotion of our company. We have taken utmost care not to bother you with unnecessary promotional stuff. If in any way it disturbs your privacy please send us the subject line as “Not to contact” and your contact details will be immediately deleted from our database.

  5. Joe

    Larry,

    I recently purchased your book Story Engineering for my Nook, and I am reading it VERY carefully. I have had to read Chapter 5: Concept Defined a couple times, and I am still having trouble differentiating between idea/concept/premise.

    Are there any blogs on your website where you go more into depth in these three terms?

    Joe

  6. Jackie Yang

    Dear Larry Brooks,

    It is nice to meet you via e-mail. I’m Jackie Yang at EYA(Eric Yang Agency) which is one of the leading literary agencies in Korea.

    We have exclusively worked with HarperCollins, Little Brown and Company, The Crown Publishing Group, Berrett-Koehler, Pocket Books, Bloomsbury, Walker & Company, Hodder, Hachette Livre, ICM, Faber & Faber, Andrew Nurnberg, A.P. Watt, etc.

    RE: STORY ENGINEERING, STORY PHYSICS

    With regard to the above titles, I have Korean publisher who got interested in. Please send me an email if the Korean rights of two titles are still available in Korea. If available, please kindly arrange the reading copy, manuscript or e-file for the review.

    Thank you in advance and we look forward to hearing from you.

    Best wishes,
    Jackie Yang

  7. Hi Larry
    I want to write a book I think it is a novel in the style of Master funny story teller Tom Sharpe—Riotous Assembly and several other books. I have written other books but this is my first go at fiction. I was sure it would be easy. I was wrong! The others in my writing group were very quick (a bit too quick I thought) to tell me. I didn’t even understand Point of View for goodness sake! So I am learning about POV, outlining, (snowflake) the four parts to a story and so on. I am reading your book Story Structure Demystified and I am learning fast but there is one major problem. None of the characters in my proposed book are heroes or villains as such they are mostly just idiots. And as in all Tom Sharpe’s books (yes he is a hero of mine) I just want the story to lurch from one complete mess to the next but all hilariously funny. I was just wondering if Tom Sharpe’s books fit the four part theory of fiction. Really I have just answered the question for my self. I will analyse a few of Tom Sharp’s books and then let you know!
    I am learning lots from your book . It is great!

  8. @Brian — hey there, welcome to the fiction jungle. Where all is not as it seems as we try to reflect what we’ve enjoyed about published novels onto our own projects. Where we learn, sometimes painfully, that we can’t reinvent the form, or do it “our way” when that way violates certain principles. The key thing, which is between the lines of what you describe, is that a successful novel is more than a glass cage into which we can look in… it’s more than “interesting” characters, a menagerie of the strange. Rather, it’s allowing the reader to ROOT for someone, and against something that blocks the path of what that character needs/wants to achieve in the story. That’s a wide breadth of story lattitude, but it’s always there. Haven’t read Sharpe, but unless the books aren’t novels at all (humorous essays are a great niche, but they’re not novels), I can pretty much guarantee you that this type of dynamic is in play. The trick for new fiction writers is twofold: learn what those principles are, and then begin to recognize them in novels you enjoy. Trying to find them without understanding them… that’s really hard. But once you see them, they pop out, you can’t un-see them. Lots of resources here for you… hope you find the Holy Grail, and that you enjoy the journey. Larry

  9. @Jen – wow, in my face. But you’re absolutely, offensively wrong. Check this link (from the sponsor of the contest), which shows the 2010/2011 winners (notice who was in first place), and then notice the SEAL shown, which IS the SAME seal, the correct seal, shown on my site:

    http://writetodone.com/2010/12/21/top-10-blogs-for-writers-2011-the-winners/

  10. Linby

    Larry,

    In a few days I will begin a blog. In it, I plan to refer to books which have shone the light on my own ignorance as I became a writer. Your “Story Structure” was the first of them; I would like to show people enough of the book to convince them they really need it on the reference shelf, whether that shelf is wood or electronic. Would you care to see the paras, to ensure that I haven’t shown them so much they don’t need to buy it? I would of course respect your wishes in this matter.

    This is too small a word for the doors you’ve opened for me, but thanks. Many, many thanks.

  11. Linby

    Right now I plan to discuss boxes and major plot points, making the point that the minors need to be respected too — although they won’t be discussed. It’s another nudge to buy “Structure.”

    Also, restating your work on my blog in condensed form would be plaigiarism, a bit of moral drum-beating which I shall not hesitate to commit!

  12. Linby

    I’d be absolutely honored to interview you. Let me think about my questions, and find the best place in the sequence I presently have planned for it. Thank you very much.

  13. Linby

    Larry, I’ve sent a rough draft of the questions to the other e-mail address you use on this site. Hope that was okay.

    Thanks again,

    Lin

  14. Jimmy

    Hi Larry,

    I bought your S.E. book as well as the NaNoWriMo ebook. Hugely grateful for the insights in these books! I’ve been applying the six core competencies to my latest novel project, and my question specifically has to do with scene construction/ beat-sheet vs. pantsing, and where the two might mix a bit.
    I used your models to sketch out the 4 acts and all of the necessary points along the way. I’m very happy with this approach – it allows for a lot of creativity. I then started at the beginning of act 1 and made little 1-4 sentence descriptions of each scene (17 scenes total), sort of like, ‘in this scene I need to get from point A to point B’, all the way up to the end of act 1.
    I was about to go right along to act 2 but then felt that perhaps I should begin writing the first draft of act 1 before defining the detailed beat sheet for acts 2,3, and 4. The reasoning here being that the details I allow myself to discover while writing “from point A to point B” in the act 1 scenes might help to inform the other acts, not on a large structural level, but on a micro level, which could nonetheless determine the shape and maybe even settings of the scenes in those acts.
    Have you ever gone this route? Do you always make a detailed beat sheet for every act before starting the draft, or is there some back and forth?

    Thanks!

  15. Gayle Messick

    I have read your Story Engineering book and am applying what I have learned in my stories – excellent advice. There is one issue I cannot wrap my head around – the midpoint which causes the hero to change from reactor to warrior. I agree that makes so much sense and gives strength to the middle part of the story, but… you write that the midpoint can be shown only to the reader (Coma, for instance). but if the event is not shown to the hero how does he change into a warrior? Why would he change?

    for now, I am ignoring it and going with showing the hero and reader the midpoint change. If I am missing something, please let me know. thanks

  16. Kathy Mangan

    Think you could post this event to be helpful to your followers?
    First Annual Nora Roberts Writing Institute
    August 2-3, 2013
    Hagerstown Community College, Hagerstown, Maryland
    Keynote Speakers: Best-selling authors Sylvia Day and Erica Bauermeister
    Sessions covering the business of publishing and the creative process of writing
    Also, Young Writer’s Institute for teen fiction writers
    http://nrwi.hagerstowncc.edu; 240-500-2582

  17. Siv Ekman

    Hello!

    I’ve just read “Story Engineering” and I think I’ve understood. I have most of the parts and milestones pretty clear by now, but their placement is getting tricky since I’ve got two equally important protagonists. They both have their own story arch, but since I don’t change pov’s with every scene, I can’t place both their milestones at the right point in the story.
    Example: if I place MC1’s Midpoint squarely at the 50% mark, MC2’s Midpoint might not come until around the 55-60% mark of the whole story. Is that ok, or do you have a better suggestion on how I should tackle this?

  18. Deb

    Are you presenting at any upcoming conferences?

  19. Hi Larry,
    I have two of your books, so I’m just nit picking here . . . . but wouldn’t it be “faint of heart” rather than “feint”? To feint is to deceive.

  20. Pingback: Get Your StoryFix Daily | Jennifer Blanchard

  21. Pingback: Five Not-So-Well-Known Writing Blogs You Should Read | Jennifer Blanchard

  22. Pingback: Why You Should Be Thankful For Those Who Came Before You | Jennifer Blanchard

  23. Pingback: 2009 Review–Accomplishments and Plans for 2010 | Jennifer Blanchard

  24. Patti Hartley

    Dear Larry:
    Just wanted to say a quick thank you for the inspiring work you are doing to help other writers. One quick question: you have analyzed the novels ‘The Divinci Code’, ‘The Help’ and ‘The Hunger Games’ in your books, and these structural lessons have been tremendously helpful. Any plans to do more novel deconstruction along the lines of Story Physics? I would love to see you analyze ‘True Grit’. Best, Patti

  25. Thanks for writing STORY ENGINEERING. Your book put some great tools in my toolbox and cleared up some key mysteries of the craft.

  26. Cheryl

    Hi Larry–

    I emailed youa my digital receipt from my purchase of Deadly Faux on Amazon (just started it and I must say I’m hooked). However, I haven’t heard back from you about the bonus offer. Did you receive my email and when might I except the “present” in my inbox. Thanks.

  27. I have bought tonnes of “how to” writing books but Story Engineering was one of the few that finally cut through the fog I suffered when it came to writing my stories. I was a pantser, but unlike what you think about organic writers, I wasn’t happy to be one.

    I knew it wasn’t efficient and if I were to be a professional writer, writing a novel in 2 years wasn’t going to cut it. So I worked hard to write fast. Thing is, I could easily write 3000-6000 words a day, but my problem is WHAT DO I WRITE NEXT?? My first attempt at outlining was a disaster because I didn’t have all of the six components. I so get it now.

    Well, your book solved that for me. Now, I watch movies and immediately deconstruct it! lol … Now I understand why I sometimes instinctively knew a story I wrote sucked, and why at other times it just worked. My brain, apparently, is sometimes able to put all the six components together in order, but when it’s tired, uninspired, not intrigued (whatever) it doesn’t.

    Your method allowed me to write a story even when my brain wants to be uncooperative. And as a journalist, we know that we write eventhough we don’t feel like it. So, thanks, Larry. You’re a great teacher.

  28. charlie

    Love the site and your books.

    A quick question or to pick your brain:
    Are story endings that reveal it was all a dream (to include a dying dream) anathema to getting published? Even if it fits the story?

  29. Pingback: Writing and Publishing News and Notes | Sally Apokedak

  30. Jane Gardner

    I’ve learned a lot by reading your blog and one of your books. I would appreciate your explaining, in concrete terms for those of us too dim to understand abstract thinking, the concepts and premises of Robert Parker’s mysteries. Also those of Janet Evanovitch (sp.?) and Agatha Christie.

  31. Linda Brewer

    I am appreciative of the guidelines Brooks provides in terms of structure and character arc. ( I do wish he’d realized that “physics” is not a plural noun.) Overall, his books are a good resource to use in reworking tired stories.

  32. @Linda – thanks for the comment, though. I’ll push back on the “physics” comment, though… in the context of the word (as a discipline, as a set of principles) “physics” is ALWAYS spelled that way; in fact, there really is no word spelled or used like this: “physic.” Because, in that context, it IS a plural noun.

    In school you take a “physics” course, not a “physic” course.

    In my books, I refer to a SET of principles, which IS plural. And when I refer to only one, I always refer to it as “one of the realms of story physics.” Plural. Always.

    Not sure where you’re getting this one, but there are hundreds of thousands of writers and English teachers, not to mention physics teachers (not to mention common sense) who will tell you that you’re off base on this one.

  33. John

    Hi Larry,

    I’m new to your books but loving them. Wondering how your model needs to tweaked,or not, with short stories?

  34. Larry, I produce an Internet Radio show called “THE WAR REPORT ON PUBLIC EDUCATION” on the BBS Radio Network hosted by Dr. James Avington Miller, Jr., PhD. He has asked me to contact you as he is seriously considering turning his shows into a book and wanted to talk to you about that and possibly hire you to help him. He has followed your blog for 3-4 years now and he does have experience writing screen plays. Are you available to talk? My number in California is 530-877-1694 and my email is above. Thank you for your time and I hope to hear from you soon!

    Debrah Emerson

  35. I head up the Idaho Writers Guild in Boise. We put on a 3 day writers conference each spring and a one-day fall writing workshop for our 200+ members. Your 6 core competencies would make a wonderful addition to either of these. Do you travel to present at such events, and if so, what are your fees?
    Thanks,
    Doug
    Idaho Writers Guild

  36. P Stern

    Hello Larry,
    Recently, I decided to try to become more creative and I purchased both your books “Story Engineering” and “Story Physics.” Since I am a non-fiction person and see things normally in Black or White, your books have proved invaluable for me.
    Thus far I have taken two writing courses at Gotham Writers Workshop. The instructors have pointed out serious grammar problems with passive voice and for some reason I cannot get it straight. Any advice?
    My second questions is would you please consider analyzing the book “The Miniaturist” by Jessie Burton. This book has been outselling J.K. Rowling in the U.K. However, many readers have said that this first time novelist missed the mark.
    I am in the process of still trying to understand concept, theme, premise and I am still working on objective analyses of novels. It is still difficult for me to spot the plot points, clues, etc.
    Since “The Miniaturist” has such mixed reviews and has just been released today in the U.S., I thought I would try to read it with your analysis in hand.
    Thank you so much for your website and the books. I really feel that I might one day attempt getting published.

  37. Bonnie E.

    Your half-day workshop at the Edmonds writers conference in October, will you be focusing on fiction? I write non-fiction.

  38. Larry… I was interested to read of your Nicholl Screenwriting experience because mine was identical back in 1993 (I think it was). Describing that near miss serves as the introduction to my short eBook “Story Structure to Die For.” You might be interested. Cheers. PJ

  39. Larry,

    Hello. My name is Logan and I just started a writing website and wanted to build some relationships with the bloggers I look up to and follow. I know you’re busy so we can chat another day!

    Keep up the great work!

    Logan

  40. Ramya Raju

    Hi There,

    I’m Ramya, a freelance writer/designer from India. I just came across your website and I’m very impressed by it. The contents detailed are informative and worth reading. Great work! I have a couple websites about English courses that I’m currently promoting for myself. I thought we could benefit each other somehow? If you are interested, I’d be happy to write a very high-quality article for your site and get a couple permanent links from it? While your website is benefiting from my high-quality article, I’m getting links from your site, making this proposition mutually beneficial. What do you think about this, please? I do write on generic topics also. Shall I write about English courses or you’ve other suggestions?

    Waiting for your response, and please do not hesitate to ask any questions.

    Regards,
    Ramya Raju

  41. Bob Cohn

    Larry,

    I pantsed my way to 125,000 words of novel, then cut it to @85,000 by leaving out the parts I felt I needed to write, but nobody (NOBODY!) needed to read. Probably a half dozen drafts. I’m outlining a second book.

    I read Story Engineering, which opened my eyes, and am most of the way thru Story Physics, which is just as eye-opening, and based on the structure you posit, I outlined the second one yesterday, and believe that I will write it, plot points first, which should save me an innumerable number of drafts and rewrites.

    I no longer accept rejections, only redirections, and I quit counting but not submitting. What I can do with that that I now believe I understand should reduce that number as well.

    As soon as I can afford it, I want to work with you. Thank you for these important ideas, their clarity, their usability, and your passion.

  42. Pingback: Pay No Attention to That Man Behind the Curtain… | sltimewellwasted

  43. Pingback: Three Coaching Resources to Help You Finish that Novel | COW PASTURE CHRONICLES

  44. Pingback: NaNoWriMo ~ It’s Not Too Late! | Kate Wood

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

(Spamcheck Enabled)