NaNoWriMo: Story Structure

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To avoid a twelve car pile up, I am approaching my NNWM project with a semblance of organization.  Before I organize I need to review the fundamentals, stored away in a big purse somewhere, and see if I have most of the things I need to get my NNWM party started.

Okay, so in the giant purse I need to find the idea, the characters, the story/plot, setting, and theme. Right now I’m vague on the idea, but I have a couple of them germinating and I think I’ll have a female teenager as the main character. So I tossed those to the side and found “story/plot.” Now I’m waffling. I think I need to review those items.

For assistance I took a look at some of my favorite  blogs and found some good advice just in case someone out there in the blogasphere is going to the NNWM party.

Mark Twain said that the first rule of writing was “that a tale shall accomplish something and arrive somewhere.” Pretty loosey-goosey for the great American writer but the quote is indisputable. Between “accomplish something and arrive somewhere” can be a vast wasteland or a lush path of unforgettable story. To help us stay away from the wasteland and into the greenery I’ll share the following:

Kristen Lamb author and editor is sharing her wealth of knowledge about story structure. She reminds us that learning narrative structure is a basic building block to writing a good novel. And the most basic of the basics of the building blocks are cause and effect. We have a beginning, middle, and end of a novel and each has to have cause and effect, strung together to form scenes or chapters. Ms. Lamb has devoted several posts to structure.

Over at Larry Brooks‘s Storyfix (an award winning blog for writers), is his two minute exercise for understanding story structure. Pretty interesting way to learn especially if you are a visual learner. He says story structure is storytelling. No structure, no story, no sales. Pretty cut and dry.

 Shelly Lowenkopf says, in his book The Fiction Lovers Companion, that story is a bundle of information bits about characters, strategically deployed to produce a series of on-going emotional responses culminating in a emotional payoff. He also says a whole lot of other good stuff but I’ll end with a frequent comment of his: “no conflict, no story.”

And Anne Lamott in Bird by Bird, one of my favorite books on writing, created a mnemonic device to help writers remember how to write story/plots that work: Action, Background, Conflict, Development, and End.

But enough about story structure and plot. It’s time to relax and think about the idea some more before I grab my purse and head out to the party.

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Categories: Anne Lamott, Kristen Lamb, NaNoWriMo, Shelly Lowenkopf, Storyfix, Writing

1 reply

  1. The fundamental structure is hero's journey; the best analysis ever is Kal's over at http://www.clickok.co.uk/index4.html ; most commentators on the subject haven't even read the books and just repeat the basic steps verbatim, but Kal gets into it big time.

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