I’ve been reading Larry Brooks‘ ebook Story Engineering and I find it to be incredibly enlightening. Basically what Larry does is dissect stories down into a predictable formula that can be followed and duplicated.
He breaks down a story line in to manageable bites consisting of plot points, pinch points, and mid points. This, he then layers on top of the main charter arc where in roughly the first half of the book the main character is an orphan/wanderer from which he becomes a warrior/martyr in the second half of the story. (Think of Harry Potter – the ultimate orphan).
The tech writer in me adores this structure. Tell me what to write where and I’ll get it to you. So when I saw this layout, I actually rejoiced. Formulas make so much sense, formulas I can live with.
But I wasn’t completely convinced that this represented “true” writing. I mean a good story comes from the heart and passion of a writer, doesn’t it? If someone is paying attention to a formula and not the story, is it really any good?
The answer is yes. Not only are these stories good but more importantly they are marketable. They give the readers what they want at exactly the point when they expect to get it.
Case in point, last weekend I read the YA book Cloaked by Alex Flinn. Before I read the first chapter, I predicted based on Larry’s formula where the first plot point was (the first plot point is the action or device that forever changes your main character). As I was reading the book, there were a few things that could have been plot points but none of them really seemed to change the main character.
Until I got to the point where the main character accepted a quest. Yup that was it. I looked down at the page number, it was right at the 25% mark.
And here’s the kicker, the very next sentence beginning the next chapter started with “Because it was real, it changed everything.” Couldn’t be more obvious could it?
I’m not going to give the story away but take it from me that every other major plot milestone fell exactly where it should have according to Larry’s design. Hmmm, maybe there is something to this thing called plot structure after all.
I’ve already talked to a few people who balk at this concept of following a plot structure, it’s too contrived they groan. And yet, I can see the beauty of this, how after you’ve figured out the plot structure it frees you to add the wonderful details of how you got from here to there.
What about you? Any of your use plot structure when planning a story or do you prefer to write your stories as they come?
Wendy Thomas is an award winning journalist, columnist, and blogger who believes that taking challenges in life will always lead to goodness. She is the mother of 6 funny and creative kids and it is her goal to teach them through stories and lessons. Wendy’s current project involves writing about her family’s experiences with chickens (yes, chickens).