Same, but Different

Do you want to learn something? I do. I always want to know as much as possible in the short period of time I have while I look into [whatever it is]. When I’m writing, the first point for me to do ‘research’ is the structure – the outline of the story.

And this time, I learned about the true structure of that blueprint. I did.

So many books, so many discussions, so many ideas – they all say the same thing, but different. And I thought I understood. I did. And I did all the requisite reading and laying out and putting it together. Of course, I didn’t really understand. The results weren’t what I wanted them to be, but it was too hard to go back to fix them to be what I had planned for, structured for, written for.

Why? Because I didn’t really understand STRUCTURE. I may be in the first throes of another love affair with the world of ‘writerly nous’ but I think now I might be well on the way to a solid understanding.

Structure is the emotional journey of the story. It is the count of beats within each section (that means Act) where the emotional levels ramp up or down, where the scenes become more or less dramatic (to the character) as they make decisions to go with or against the flow.

A character decides, and doesn’t get carried along for the ride. A story is an emotional investment – for the character and the reader.

I read two [library] books last week (and now bought them for the keeper section of my library): Save the Cat (Snyder) and Story (McKee).

Both have been read multiple times in the last few days as I get my head around how well they’ve written the lesson.

And I learned how to fix my structure issues! I have. Now I just have to do that! Fix them.

Oh, and the Bear Group – what did they come back with? Issues with Structure, how the journey is laid out, why the MC has to decide to do this or that, the close personal element of ‘take me on a journey’ and what that journey shows the reader about (1) the person, (2) the world, (3) the problem. Structure.

So, if you want to learn about structure or story, read those books. They’re available, but there’s a funny thing – you don’t see them for sale in secondhand places, not even online. When people buy these books, they don’t get rid of them. Ever. That tells us something, doesn’t it.

Get these books if you want your story to be stitched together like a bespoke suit.


Yes, I had read the Snyder book previously; I took notes and wrote them up with three senses so I wouldn’t forget, and then I got on with writing. And that’s the other secret – you can’t understand these things unless you’ve already done some work, figured out that there’s something missing, some piece of effort that needs more than the senses – it needs completion that isn’t fulfilment; it needs the sense of failure that comes from a final product that isn’t a finished product. The step beyond a simple structure to an architecturally brilliant concept. Concept.

In the last 12 months (or so), I’ve completed 5 mss. 7 if you count the partials. 9 if you count anthologies. But something was missing.

If I hadn’t done all that work, would I recognise what was missing when I saw the lesson again? Probably not. I’d go on thinking I understood, because I did understand. I understood the words and the placement of ‘things’ but without the effort expended in the creation of these pieces, I wouldn’t have come to understand the difference between architect and builder. I am now a builder and an architect. I understand structure. Structure.

As someone who has built more than the one house, I understand the concept of the architect.

I can go on knowing it was all worth it – and I won’t give up. That the next one will be better, will be more . . . everything.


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