Saturday, November 22, 2014

[link] Larry Brooks on Story Structure and "Going With the Flow"

Larry Brooks has one of the clearest explanations of story structure I've read. He calls it "story physics" -- the basic underlying rules for generating a satisfying reading experience, no matter what the genre. In general, he's not an advocate of "pantsing," that is, writing whatever pops into your mind without any idea where your story is going. I began writing that way, and had to learn to revise and revise and revise. Then I learned to use story structure principles as a diagnostic for where my story wasn't working. The more experienced I become, the earlier in the process I reach for those analytical, structural tools.

Brooks says, 

Organic storytelling — pantsing — is certainly a viable way to find your story, and to get it into play in a story development sense. But be clear, that’s all it is. If you stamp “Final Draft” onto a manuscript that hasn’t, in fact, landed on the optimal structure for the story you are telling, then you are putting your dream in jeopardy.

I like that he recognizes that some of us need that seat-of-the-pants experience. He talks in terms of finding the story, but it can also be crucial to the joy of writing and therefore to the nurture of our creative muses. But we also want the thrill of "nailing" the story exactly right, and to do that, we need more than very cool ideas. We need to understand how to put them together, how to present them, in the way that enhances and makes them all work together -- the "flow."

One of the things that delights me about this concept is that it seems to rely not on some artificial set of rules, but on an understanding of how the human psyche works. The Greek playwrights understood this. So did Shakespeare. So did Jane Austen.

So can you.

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