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!