I shared some thoughts of the process I’m currently going through with some close friends and actually found that sharing was super helpful for me.
I’m not sure how many people will want to read this kind of stuff, but even if it’s just one or two, that’s cool. And if it’s no one, we’ll that’s fine too. Because I’m on a learning journey at the moment, and I’ve always found that teaching what I learn is incredibly helpful for myself.
So, I’m gonna pretend that I’m teaching someone something. Maybe it’s you 🙂
I’m learning about a more structured approach to storytelling and I’m finding the process of planning and outlining interesting and difficult.
But I’m learning a ton about story structure in the process.
As with learning anything new, there’s certainly moments of frustration too. But I’m glad that I’ve chosen to work on short stories to assist with the learning. It’s allowing me to work with well known tropes (which saves having to be particularly unique) while figuring this stuff out.
So far, I’ve written 3 versions of the first act on my next story already because I really wasn’t grasping the concept of the inciting incident. But I think I’m getting it finally!
The thing I’ve struggled with the most is wrapping my head around the character want vs need and how the conflicts connect to them.
So for example, they say that at the start of a story, the main character is focused on their want and the inciting incident sets the story in motion. But the character doesn’t figure out their need until the climax.
So my question was, are the events between the inciting incident and the climax supposed to be focused around the want or the need? The common answer is that it depends.
This has been a challenging concept for me to wrap my head around. But in boiling it down to a very basic and common story and theme, I’m finally getting it. The trick will be in learning how to apply it to other concepts.
But with the current story I’m working on, I’ve got it so that the male protagonist wants power and success and believes that’s what women want in a man. In the inciting incident he meets a woman who grabs his attention and through her words and actions the seed of the “truth” (tied to his need, in other words, the lesson he needs to learn, also called the theme) is planted.
Which is, that a good hearted woman doesn’t care about power and success and isn’t impressed by it.
His journey will be in learning to understand and accept that concept and how it impacts his actions.
I still need to figure out some of the plot point events. And especially the mid-point event. But I think that the climax fail will be a major push by him to obtain his idea of ultimate success and power that he doesn’t achieve (driven by his want, influenced by the lie he believes, triggered by his ghost – which in this case is about how he was raised).
The girl leaves him because of his reaction to that failure which temporarily reaffirms to him that all women want men to be powerful and successful.
His epiphany (the resolution) will be when he realizes that she left because of his reaction to the failure, not the failure itself.
These aren’t really spoilers. Because this is a super common trope, nothing revolutionary or “wowing”. But it’s really helping me to understand the key events within a story structure and how they fit together.
The combined trick with this story will be to see if I manage to produce a story that is also entertaining and draws you as the reader into the story, despite the overall cliche trope.
We often watch or read stories that if we’re honest, we know exactly how the structure is going to play out – just like I described above. Yet we still consume them and we still enjoy them – that’s where voice and style come into play.
This whole learning process has been one of the most brain taxing experiences I’ve gone through in a long time. But I’m loving it. It actually plays very well into my evenly balanced left and right brain.
This stuff is giving me the linear structure I need and crave while also teaching me how to use it to fuel my creativity.
While my focus for this exercise and story is on improving my understanding and delivery of story structure, I’m also weaving into that aspects of character arcs and character development to keep the story engaging as well.
This is also why working with a super basic and common trope has made the process a little bit easier. It allows me to focus on getting the structure right.
Storytelling, and especially writing a novel, is a complex matter. When I wrote my first draft of my first book, I was focused on voice and events. Something that I apparently did satisfactorily. It allowed people to enjoy the story I was telling.
But frankly, at that time, I didn’t even know about most of this other stuff. I’ve never taken creative writing classes, outside of high school. And from much of what I’ve learned, many of those classes focus on either 1) structure only or 2) prose only. Yet, there is so much more.
I’m learning that while it is possible to write a passable story by doing just a few elements well. A great story will almost always do many elements well.
Since I’ve had such amazing support and encouragement from my readers with my early writing, I decided that the least I can do is make the effort to learn how to handle other elements well too.
With any luck, the end result will be many more stories and novels that my readers love even more and even crave.
This is one of the ways that I intend to give back to my readers. Thank you!