On continuing the path to writer-hood (the gooderer type), I have tried to master the concept of structure, of form – and how to create from it the bespoke, the original, the ‘just for you’ story.
Yes, stories have a format – they start at a beginning. Not THE beginning, but they start somewhere and they end somewhere and in the middle is the fun stuff.
The first skill to master is: Imagery. Nothing to do with words at all. It’s the title and the cover (if it were a movie, it would be the poster). These two things must be the first beacon to the reader – the title to say what it is, to evoke the sense of the type of story and if it’s what we (the reader) want to read; the picture on the cover tells its own story, gives the genre and audience, and beckons to the ones who like this type of story. That’s their job, and if it’s not done well, the book doesn’t open to tell the story to anyone.
Two things – and no sentences yet. Title and Cover have their own format, their own way of communicating the story that will unfold beneath them.
We go inside: to the hook. What is a hook? I mean, I go fishing, I know what a hook is when I’m fishing. But a hook made of words? In the first stage of the story? Is it a small intrigue, something that catches attention? Is it a big thing? Blow-em-up thing? Answer: It’s not always a big thing, it’s not always loud, it’s not always an intrigue. Sometimes, it’s just the way the person is presented to us in those first few pages, in the set-up. Do we (the reader) feel something for this person? Can we put ourselves in that place? Would we make the same choices? Are we connected?
The hook is the emotional connection between the character (story) and the reader. It doesn’t usually involve bait or making the reader bleed (except maybe the heart).
Now that we know the person on the pages, now that we accept who they are and how they are, we wreck their world. We put in the inciting incident, and turn everything upside down – well, not quite yet, but it’s the first step to doing that. We upset the applecart, toss their dreams to the wind and watch them blow away in the storm. And we do it for the prospect of change – physical, emotional, spiritual, psychological – inner and outer is where we look to make these changes for this story. We set up the things that need to change, and then we dump the bucket on ’em.
The next point is to slow it down, give the character time to consider the options – of course, we know they’ll do this or that because it’s the type of person they are – right? they need to make their own decisions about the way forward, find options and lay out the reasons for each option being the right way, the only way. The main character makes a decision (good or bad, it belongs to them as part of their pattern f growth). And then they move on to:
The First Plot Hole in the Road. The Big thing that the first 25% of the story has led us into. The moment of no-turning-back because the decision’s been made. The whole world has been turned upside down, and things do not look the same at all. So where to go to from here?
Swear word here, please. Because what’s above is the first 25% of your story in terms of form (not formula), the basic structure that the rest of the story (the fun stuff) will be built from and into.
Next post will be the next 25% – which is what happens between the end of this section and the MidPoint of the story. And it’s . . . tune in to find out!
And the reason for the title to this blog: Is It Real? That’s the whole purpose of a story – to feel real to the reader, at the very least emotionally.
There’s a little trick some people use to create either story or blurb or concept – and that’s the one or two sentence log-line. It’s an idea turned into an interesting concept. Here’s one (you tell me if it’s interesting):
Concept: What if hell exists and it eats away at everyone while they dream – until its strong enough to break out into the real world – Soon.
Turned into blurb:
A lonely young woman fights off anyone who tries to get too close – she’s afraid the dreams will get them, so she pushes them away for their safety, for their sanity. And then she meets the man of her dreams – the good dreams, that is – and they have just one night together. Nothing left but that thing on the wall – and her broken heart and mind. But now hell has her scent, it knows what she can do, and it’s coming for her.
- the above is from The Third Moment (title subject to change, maybe blurb, maybe . . .).