In Defense of Story Architecture

I have no idea what the etiquette is on referring readers to a third party review of one’s own book.  On one hand it seems, well, fine… though some would perceive it as a bit self-serving. 


But that’s what I’m doing.  The link appears below (and HERE), straight to the reviewers page on  At this writing his review of my writing book, “Story Engineering.” is the first one up.

If you don’t get it, don’t like it, or otherwise want to hear from a writer who does get it, check it out.

I’m not doing this to try to sell you my book.  I’m thinking that most of you who come here already have it, or know about it, so that’s not the point. 

I’m also not doing it as an in-your-face response to my critics, some of whom actually like the content but don’t care so much for (or just don’t get) my approach.  Fair enough, in some cases.  A few have been downright rude and personal , and to them I say… read this review, you may have missed something.    

I’m referring you to it because this guy gets it. 

He represents a common first impression and then a sweet little Epiphany when it comes to being introduced to the principles of story architecture.  He speaks directly to those who either don’t get it or don’t like it because it flies in the face of the belief that there is something mystical about it all, that it is something you can plan for and execute.

So here it is.  And if it makes you want to buy the book, hey,that’s good, too.  Not going to apologize for the link here.  Maybe it’ll help take you to where you want to be with your writing dream.  That’s the point, afterall.

Read it HERE. It’s titled, “Now I Finally Get It…”

For another great take on this — someone else who GETS IT — read the Comment from Curtis below in the Comment thread. 


Check out my new and ridiculously affordable story review and coaching service HERE.

And, if you’re interested in Story Engineering, you can get it HERE.



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11 Responses to In Defense of Story Architecture

  1. Your book is what made everything “click” for me. The novel I’m working on now (my fifth) is by far my most strongly-plotted book and that’s because I used your technique to hammer everything out. I know exactly where I’m going, yet I have left room open change if need be. I recommend STORY ENGINEERING to anyone having trouble with plotting. I wish I had read it years ago. I’ll never plot another way again.

  2. My “getting it” goes something like this.

    I think that those of us who dream of writing court the joy of being wrapped in the arms of our muse as we write. Enthralled by our words trailing the cursor across the screen, we get caught up in the mystical embrace of self and imagination.

    In a flash we are seized by a character named Elizabeth Rawlings. The mind floods with the warmth and possibility of all this powerful woman can be.

    Overwhelmed by her charm and strength, we rush to the keyboard to tell her story, the essence of which has mesmerized us already.

    Then along comes Larry and asks us the sequential and necessary questions that will lead us to make every decision required to get Elizabeth’s story told.

    Boom. We are snatched straight out of the ethereal rush of the moment and into the reality of ……”well, uh, I don’t know.”

    Granted, I was ten pages into my love affair with Elizabeth. Not much had happened and I had begun to wonder what was going to happen. Then, Larry finishes off my romantic moment with “What’s her story about?” Major Buzzkiller strikes again.

    The loss of that reverie makes us angry. And, I do mean angry. Few people celebrate the loss of anything, let alone the rush we experience from the white hot flame of our love for a character and the initial moments of the telling.

    At this point, we become one of only two kinds of Story Structure people. We cut to the chase, learn the parts, pieces and purpose of each part that make up story structure and get her story told. Or, we mill around inside the remains of a wounded fantasy, lick our wounds and lose even a hint of the blinding light once associated with her name. Elizabeth is forgotten. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

    Check the unfinished stories sitting around and tell me what I have described is not true.

    P.S. Planning applies to pros. But, please don’t tell anyone or there will be that many more manuscripts on top of mine in the slush pile.

  3. @Curtis — brilliantly stated. Gonna point folks to this, thanks.

    @Richard — thanks for having my back. Am researching this, may take it down if I sense this offends them. I’ve seen it before, so maybe I’m in a middle ground.

  4. Hi, I have been looking at buying your book in digital format, but is it only available from Kindle? Is it available in epub format because I have a non-Kindle reader and am trying to save shelf space.

    I look forward to the read.

  5. Larry, if you’re not pissing somebody off, you’re not doing it right. 🙂 You don’t need to defend your work–it speaks for itself.

    Story Engineering clicked for me because it has the right mix of analysis and esoterica that I needed. I needed someone to explain the structure of story not just in a “look what this guy did” way–I went to college for that and got pretty good at it. Where SE really helped me out was the next step–the “why it worked” way. I’ve read a gazillion how to write books, gone to workshops and attended online and in-person classes, sussed this out with college professors and professional bestsellers and while everyone was very competent and thorough about drawing me a map, Story Engineering gave me a compass and taught me what the letters mean.

    For the record, I don’t get the people who think Larry’s trashing pantsers–if anything, pantsers are lucky to be acknowledged at all by plotter-oriented books (and vice-versa for plotters in pantser-oriented books). If acknowledged at all, it’s via hand-waving that says “they do it their way and it works for them” or “if you do it that way, you shouldn’t.” Larry’s pretty clear in saying that if you pants-it, SE works just as well conceptually, even if your execution is different.

  6. I agree Larry, with every point and nuance and implication of the review.
    Your book is that good and is a gift, as I have pointed out a couple times previously.
    By the way, I also think highly of Donald Maass’s books.
    Put your Story Engineering together with his Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook, and I have plenty enough to remember to do in every scene and get right!

  7. Tonii Kelly

    My experience with Larry’s story review service made me realize why I’ve spent so long on a story that should have been finished years ago–if I had planned it. If I’d known HOW to plan it. If you have any doubt whether your story is doing well or still limping along, take him up on his review service. Best money I ever spent. Now I see what parts of Story Engineering I had confusion over. Thanks, Larry, and don’t worry about detractors. You have too many converts that need your attention!

  8. Your piece of cyberspace, Larry. Your say in what goes and I see no problem promoting one’s hard work in one’s space especially when someone else ‘gets it’ and is psyched about it. And good move directing readers to Curtis’ comment. I know that progression well.

  9. @Heather: you can always download a free Kindle app to your tablet, iPad, smartphone or computer. (I have a Nook myself, but like having all my apps in one place on the other devices I listed here.) Good luck!

  10. Chris

    I think it’s a shame if some pantsers think this book is trying to belittle their style. He could have taken the easy approach and simply presented the structure without acknowledging a more organic approach to writing, but instead he tried to reach out to pantsers as well and demonstrate how the core content of the book is equally applicable no matter where you fall on the spectrum. If you’re a pantser, read this book with an open mind – you don’t need to fundamentally change how you engage your creativity. Rather, read it, understand it, observe the elements in existing fiction to cement your understanding, then pack it away in a little corner of your brain where it’ll serve as a passive guide while you let your characters take over.

    The rhetorical style isn’t for everyone, but the content is excellent.

  11. Michael

    Chris, et al,

    Agreed. The point too often missed is that there are many (or at least two) ways to reach the same goal. But make no mistake, the goal is the same — to restore the imbalance posed by the inciting incident. The story is the solution that works for the characters in the context of their personalities and resultant interaction. Engineers and architects both seek to create structurally sound, reasonably attractive buildings (the goal) by following different paths. The end result is the same (somewhere you or I would want to work/live), the difference is the path each takes. A well-written, emotionally satisfying story is the same, whether it’s arrived at by hacking through the brush or following a map. The map just gets us there a little quicker by (hopefully) avoiding circles, backtracks, and quicksand pools.