Came across this in my research for New Dresden Blues—it’s an excellent, thorough breakdown of the formula for a typical mystery novel. I think people tend to sneer at “formulaic” stories (romance is another good example), and I think that has a lot to do with the kind of genre snobbery that makes me gnash my teeth and go off on rants about low culture and bookstore ghettoization, so we’ll leave that be for now. Ultimately, though, familiarity with different story structures can only be a good thing. Formula exists for a reason, in that it is often the most recognizable and coherent form a story can take. If you’re going to break formula (and everyone does in some way!) it should be because your decision enhances the story, not out of elitism or some nonsense.
Brownmiller, Susan. Femininity. Linden Press, New York. 1984. (pg. 125)
Less significant still sadly rings a bell!
This made me giggle. :)
It’s funny—just yesterday I was thinking about looking for writing related material to post, since it’s an extremely important beginning step to animation, and just now my friend tagged me in a post on Facebook linking to this!
- #1: You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.
- #2: You gotta keep in mind what’s interesting to you as an audience, not what’s fun to do as a writer. They can be v. different.
- #3: Trying for theme is important, but you won’t see what the story is actually about til you’re at the end of it. Now rewrite.
- #4: Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.
- #5: Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You’ll feel like you’re losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.
- #6: What is your character good at, comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite at them. Challenge them. How do they deal?
- #7: Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.
- #8: Finish your story, let go even if it’s not perfect. In an ideal world you have both, but move on. Do better next time.
- #9: When you’re stuck, make a list of what WOULDN’T happen next. Lots of times the material to get you unstuck will show up.
- #10: Pull apart the stories you like. What you like in them is a part of you; you’ve got to recognize it before you can use it.
- #11: Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you’ll never share it with anyone.
- #12: Discount the 1st thing that comes to mind. And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th – get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself.
- #13: Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it’s poison to the audience.
- #14: Why must you tell THIS story? What’s the belief burning within you that your story feeds off of? That’s the heart of it.
- #15: If you were your character, in this situation, how would you feel? Honesty lends credibility to unbelievable situations.
- #16: What are the stakes? Give us reason to root for the character. What happens if they don’t succeed? Stack the odds against.
- #17: No work is ever wasted. If it’s not working, let go and move on - it’ll come back around to be useful later.
- #18: You have to know yourself: the difference between doing your best & fussing. Story is testing, not refining.
- #19: Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.
- #20: Exercise: take the building blocks of a movie you dislike. How d’you rearrange them into what you DO like?
- #21: You gotta identify with your situation/characters, can’t just write ‘cool’. What would make YOU act that way?
- #22: What’s the essence of your story? Most economical telling of it? If you know that, you can build out from there.
This is a very extensive list, so prepare to scroll! From this website.
I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again… who doesn’t heart McKinley?
I wroten a post as a response to responses to John Scalzi’s “Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is” essay.
So, hi, my name is Karen and I’m a novelist. I write young adult fantasy and science fiction, and I deliberately include people of various ethnicities, sexualities, cultural backgrounds, wealth levels, religious beliefs and ability levels in my work. I deliberately address things I think are wrong with the world in my fiction. My shorthand for this is “writing diversity”.
Writing diversity was a choice I made, because it would have been hella easier not to, and if I weren’t friends with certain people or didn’t read certain blogs or didn’t watch certain media products or a number of other things, I probably would have done just that. I’ve read the work I wrote as a teenager. It is a White European Fantasyland spectacular! And it probably goes without saying that in attempting to write diversity, I have occasionally made spectacularly bad choices that have really hurt and offended some readers.
Occasionally, other similarly privileged writers or would-be writers who don’t write diversity, encountering the notion that they could attempt to, like, try, will get upset. “But it doesn’t matter what I do!” they argue. “If I write diversity wrong, or write it in a way that you people don’t like, you will yell at me! And if I don’t write diversity, you will yell at me! I’m damned if I do, damned if I don’t!”
And now I am super tired and I am going to sleep.
Awesome post, and the poop metaphor is actually quite apt!
My thoughts as this trailer progressed: Oh tasty, a Three Musketeers Movie. And look, its even going for the gritty realistic angle with 14 year old D’Artagnon. Interesting, maybe it will deconstruct the use of child soldiers in Renaissance era Fra— wait, …HE JUST JUMPED OUT OF A DIRIGIBLE ONTO ANOTHER DIRIGIBLE!!
Made me think of Narrative Kinks, the kind of story cruft that set you brain on fire for no sensible reason. I recommend walking up to other people in fandom to ask, “what are your kinks?” without preamble. On second thought, don’t do that.
Aaaaaah you guys! This concept is what me and my high school writing buddies called Buttons. I’ve been maintaining a Button List for like five years because it is the best concept, here let me show you a selection:
- Haircut scenes, especially to explore emotional intimacy between two characters
- Woobie priests
- Wildly inconvenient childbirth/menstruation
- Ink stains (on skin, clothing, wood, etc.)
- Ambiguity between dancing and fighting
- Constructed families
- Would-be betrayers developing feelings for their intended victims
- The normally competent character being out of commission and having to coach a less-experienced character through their job. Best example of this: doctors who are injured and have to orchestrate their own first aid.
- Deliberate anachronism
- Intrigue as seen or influenced by supposedly powerless citizens, especially messengers/criers/couriers/newsies or scribes/translators/interpreters
- Time paradoxes
- And at this point Asenian robots I guess
If a piece of media has got any of these things in it, I don’t care how objectively or otherwise bad it may be, I will eat it up with a goddamn spoon.
And even if you think that’s true (which scares the hell out of me), I don’t see you arguing for an accurate portrayal of everything in your fiction all the time. For example, most people seem fine without accurate portrayal of what personal hygiene was really like in 1300 CE in their medieval fantasy media. (Newsflash: realistically, Robb Stark and Jon Snow rarely bathed or brushed their teeth or hair). In real life, people have to go to the bathroom. In movies and books, they don’t show that very much, because it’s boring and gross. Well, guess what: bigotry is also boring and gross. But everyone is just dying to keep that in the script.
|—||Henry Jenkins (via awwyeahquotes)|
|—||Diana Wynne Jones, Hints About Writing a Story|