Friday, 30 December 2016

Fiction Workshop 3 A basic plot shape

This is based on the theory presented in Robert McKee’s Story. It is really written for the film industry but is also very useful for fiction writers. I suggest you read the whole book and then go back and reread Chapter 14. The shape he suggests can be condensed into:
  • Opening.
  • Growing complexities 1, 2, 3…  
  • Crisis  
    • Climax     
  • Resolution

Some notes

  1. A short story will probably only have three growing complexities. A novel will have more and will also include sub-plots – more about those later.
  2. Note the climax is the gap between the crisis point and the resolution. This is where the car chase tends to be and in commercial literature one more awful thing will happen just before the resolution.
  3. The climax usually happens somewhere between 2/3 and 4/5 of the way through the story.
  4. The resolution often lets a story down – it may be too melodramatic, unbelievable or a bit of a damp squib. This happens if you’ve not really worked out what your story is about before you start.
  5. Some writers plot in detail, others – ‘pansters’ – just put their characters together and see what happens. Stephen King is a panster but his plots are technically perfect. If you’re a panster you might use the template above for editing your work rather than creating it.   

To do

  1. Reread a story that you like and work out if this plot shape fits the story.
  2. Use the template to write a brief bullet-pointed outline for your story.      

Friday, 9 December 2016

Fiction Workshop 2

Recipe for a story

Create four characters or reuse the four characters you created in Workshop 1:

Put the protagonist with the enemy. See what happens. The story usually comes out of the tension between protagonist and the enemy. But the friend sympathises and the mentor advises.

Can you describe your story in a couple of lines?
E.g. Cinderella does go to the ball despite the best efforts of her step-mother and sisters; there she meets the man of her dreams and her life is transformed.     

Now decide how the story will begin and end.

Number 1 -6
At number 1, put the beginning
At number 6 put the end
At number 2 put what happens after the beginning – make this a growing complexity.
At number 5 put the crisis point – what is that happens that changes everything?
What happens after 2? Make this 3?
What happens before the crisis point? Make this 4.

What happens between 4 & 5?
If you do this in a Word document you can expand the list as much as you like. You might have the crisis point much further on if your story becomes complex.   

Note: some fiction writers are “pansters” – they write by the seat of their pants and don’t plan at all. At the other extreme you have people who put everything on to index cards and spread them over the whole house. Most people are somewhere between the two.  Whichever you are, keeping in mind that two line description of your story is a useful way of keeping you on track.