Story Structure Demystified

Like most of you, I’ve read a dozen books on writing the novel. Most of them try to tell you how to write something dramatic, memorable, believable, engaging . . . all important qualities. (And ones I’d like my books to have! Thus Kay reads lots of these things.)

Now comes along something a little different: Larry Brooks has written a book on novel structure. Story Structure Demystified. And oh boy, are you in for a ride.

Picture light bulbs going off in your head. Picture you, after about 40 pages, frantically scanning your manuscript to see if you got anything right. Because by about page 40 you’ll be in Larry’s power, and you’ll be begging for more. Let me just say straight out that I have never heard a more cogent and — while complex — simple logic of where the big scenes go and why. The big improvement is the why. Most of us have heard of First Plot Point, Midpoint, etc. But what, really, does an inciting incident accomplish on page 100 that it cannot on page 50? Why is the midpoint the very moment when your character discovers something heretofore hidden? (I especially love the answer: because she moves from being a wanderer to a warrior.)

Brooks is entertaining while he’s busting your chops. The book (an ebook) is very fun to read; his examples are brilliant and easy to follow; he’s funny, self-deprecating and just a little insistent when I’m starting to balk. He’s heard it all before. He answers the very questions that naturally spring to mind. And he leaves some room for the organic process that wants not to plan too much.

Naturally, as a good teacher, he relates the four-part structure of the novel to story telling basics like conflict–and gives some glimpses of draping your structure with concept, character and theme.

But without structure, your novel is flabby, disappointing, and ultimately unpublishable. Without structure, all that flailing away at character is an exercise in futility–unless you are writing a strictly literary novel. And as Brooks says, well, good luck, then.

Go here now and buy this book. Story Structure Demystified by Larry Brooks.

And check out his website, also dynamite: Storyfix.com

Disclaimer: Larry Brooks was a featured speaker at Write on the River in Wenatchee and was handsome, charming and a fabulous teacher. But I read his book with a cold and wary eye, trust me!

10 Responses

  1. […] principles, please consider my ebook, Story Structure Demystified.  You can read a review HERE written by bestselling author Kay […]

  2. 100% agreed. (Useless as a comment, if you want them to provoke discussion.)

    I not only frantically searched my work in progress, but ultimately abandoned it because it LACKED EVERYTHING. (Secondary characters are being used in the new WIP, structured this time, so all was not lost.)

    Half a dozen novels in the house were quickly analysed (mid point at the – midpoint. First plot point at the 25% mark. I even found a perfect example of a pinch point in Lee Child’s 61 Hours at exactly the right point. That was more than enough to convince me.

    Because of what he wrote in that ebook I can honestly say my writing is better. This current WIP is mapped with structure in mind. Because of the rigour of the structure, I’m finding writing much easier. It just flows so much better.

    I’m a fifty year old novice writer. Last November (triggered by Nanowrimo) I decided to see if I could make a living writing. In March I found Larry’s ebook. In September my first short story wil be published, and I’m about a third of the way through writing the first novel I’ve mapped using Larry’s ‘guidance’. (Two others, one of which I’ve abandoned, are pretty much hopeless.)

    His ebooks, and his site, are excellent resources for any writer, beginner or veteran.

  3. Kay says:

    Tony, congratulations. You are brave to have tossed out pages and started again. That is the kind of open-minded determination that will serve you well. I like what you said, “Because of the rigor of structure, I’m finding the writing much easier.” I would add, that starting a novel by attending to structure is slow and hard. Though it more than pays off, many people are just not up to it.

  4. Merrilee says:

    I might have to put this one on my “to-read” pile.

  5. Kay says:

    Larry’s also a great teacher, if you are ever in the Pacific NW, he gives workshops quite a bit hereabouts.

  6. Josh says:

    Kay, thanks for this recommendation. As you’ve said, I’ve read dozens of books on writing, but too few bring together all the various aspects of a novel into a comprehensive whole like Larry does. It’s been great reading so far.

  7. Kay says:

    Josh, you’re welcome. It’s also worthwhile to dip into Larry’s writing-centered blog, storyfix.com.

  8. Josh says:

    Bookmarked, and delving into the archives. Excellent stuff.

  9. Kay says:

    Very gracious, Josh. Thank you.

  10. […] As an alternative, you can define your writing by genre. In my case, fantasy. Yours might be thriller, or romance. Do you know what section of the bookstore your book would be stocked in? Author Kay Kenyon actually just posted a great entry about Knowing Your Genre. Take a few to read it. She’s always got strong advice on her site. In fact, one of her recommendations led me to Story Structure Demystified, a great resource from StoryFix.com, both of which I’ll cover in more detail here in the future. (If you’re impatient for my coverage of it, check out Kay’s review of SSD here.) […]

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