Tag Archives: story

So, what’s your story?

I’ll tell you a story about Johnny McGory.

Will I begin it?

That’s all that’s in it.

Irish nursery rhyme.

What's the story?

 

Story trumps all. The toppermost bough of the literary elite tree may disagree and say literature is about language, the perfect sentence, la mot juste. However, for most writers in today’s economic climate – if you don’t have a sound story, you don’t have a publishing deal. Having a well constructed plot and a good story means you’ll be forgiven all sorts of other failings (blingy adverbs, oddball syntax, clichéd characters). It’s simply today’s reality.

Firstly, in order to have a story, you have to have some sort of conflict. These conflicts usually fall into one or more of the following categories:

man vs. nature

man vs. man

man vs. the environment

man vs. machines/technology

man vs. the supernatural

man vs. self

man vs. god/religion

Examples of good conflict ridden plots can be found everywhere, in the Bible, Greek mythology, Shakespeare, ethnic folk tales and even jokes.

Structure

A typical story structure might be plotted thus:

Stasis – the status quo. The reader is introduced to the character and setting.

Disturbance. Something occurs which upsets the normal run of things. For example, a stranger arrives in town.

The main character is affected by the disturbance.

The main character decides on a plan of action to rectify or improve matters.

Obstacles stand in the way of the plan of action succeeding.

Complications occur in the guise of choices/new characters/new ideas/discovery.

These lead to a crisis, when the focus of a play comes together in an unavoidable way.

The crisis usually leads to a climax or the major confrontation.

Finally comes the denouement or resolution which results in a new stasis.

The above will often feature a character development arc whereby the protagonist is changed in a fundamental way by the events.

 

A good exercise in plotting is to take a book or a film you’ve really enjoyed and try to break it down into a series of plot-steps, like the ones I’ve outlined above. Now, change the setting, the gender of the protagonist, the era, the goal and the type of obstacles that stand in the way. Yet, stay true to the plot template. When you’ve finished you’ll find you have a completely new story. Don’t feel as though you’ve stolen another’s plot. In truth, there are no new plots, each is a retelling of an older version. You’ve simply adapted and updated a classic plot line and in the process have created a unique story.

That’s all that’s in it.

Advertisements

Life In The Blurbs

Can You Sum Up Your Story On A Pebble?

Blurbs, those wee plot synopses on the back of books, are a great writers’ tool. Firstly, writing a blurb for your yet-to-be-written novel helps you get to the kernel of what it is all about. Secondly, penning such a blurb will prompt you to imagine your novel as a reality and motivate you to keep going and finish what you’ve started.

Also, reading the blurb of a novel that closely resembles your own will help you get to the bones of your own story, structure and theme. Look at how these other works are summed up. Do they concentrate on plot or theme or character? What is the hook? And what is yours?

Remember, a blurb is not a synopsis. Blurbs are short, the shorter the better, maybe a line or two long. Some are even just a few words. You don’t have to condense your story to “Jaws in Space” but do boil it down as much you can. If you had to sell your story on the back of a postage stamp or a pebble, what would you write?

When you’ve crafted your blurb, place it close to your writing place. It will keep you focused on what your book is about – and make sure that point is then evident in the very DNA of every moment of your book.

Finally, when it comes to approaching agents, having a well-written blurb you can include in a cover letter will prove very useful. Your blurb is your elevator pitch. Spend time on it and perfect it.