Tag Archives: larry brooks

More structural self-editing resources

Pinterest

Yesterday I shared my presentation on structural self-editing from the 2014 LDStorymakers conference, and today I’m sharing some more resources on the subject—enough to keep you busy for quite a while!

Books I referenced

Blog posts

Other resources

Seven-point story structure by Dan Wells on YouTube—each video is about 10 minutes

What are your favorite resources on story structure?

Tomorrow: my presentation on gesture crutches!

 

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • StumbleUpon
  • Email
  • RSS

Secret sauce: Story structure

This entry is part 5 of 16 in the series Spilling the secret sauce
Pinterest

Intuitively, we all know when a story has good structure, but we don’t all have an intuitive understanding of how to actually execute (or even explain) that structure. But knowing how to partition your story and how to pace the major events and turning points makes a huge difference between a novel that’s publishable and one that’s not.

Most plotting methods can be helpful in brainstorming types of events, but they don’t often help with the actual pacing. I’ve been using Larry Brooks’s “Story Structure” method for three and a half years and six novels. But it’s also really useful in revisions. I’ve used it on two novels I wrote before I discovered Story Structure—including the novel I took from rejection to offer.

Larry Brooks, author of many, many scripts, four published novels, and the blog StoryFix, published this in a blog series. It’s very much worth it to read the Story Structure full series, but I’ll give a quick overview here.

The structure is in four parts with three turning points separating them (plus two “pinch points”). Each part of the story should be about one quarter of the story.

Part one is the Set-up. In this part of the story, we meet the characters and are introduced to the story question. (If you’re reading this and thinking “Oh, the Ordinary World,” you’re not alone.) Here we also establish what’s at stake, but most of all, we’re working up to the turning point at the end of this part: Plot Point 1.

Brooks says that First Plot Point is the most important moment in your story. Located 20-25% of the way into your story, it’s

the moment when the story’s primary conflict makes its initial center-stage appearance. It may be the first full frontal view of it, or it may be the escalation and shifting of something already present.

This is a huge turning point—where the whole world gets turned on its head. (If you like, you can say this is where we formally pose the story question.)

PP1 bridges into Part 2—the Response. The hero/heroine responds to the first plot point. This response can be a refusal, shock, denial, etc., etc. That doesn’t mean they have to do nothing—they have to do something, and something more than sitting and stewing—but their reactions are going to be . . . well, reactive. The hero(ine) isn’t ready to go on the offensive to save the day quite yet—they’re still trying to preserve the status quo.

In the middle of this part (about 3/8s of the way through your story), comes Pinch Point 1. Brooks defines a pinch point as “an example, or a reminder, of the nature and implications of the antagonistic force, that is not filtered by the hero’s experience. We see it for ourselves in a direct form.” So it’s something bad that we get to see happen, showing us how bad the bad guy is, raising the stakes.

At the end of the Response comes the Mid-Point. As the name suggests, this is halfway through the story. And here, the hero and/or the reader receives some new bit of information. It’s pretty important, though—this is the kind of revelation that changes how we view the story world, changing the context for all the scenes that come after it.

Then we swing into Part Three, the Attack. Now our hero(ine) is ready to go on the offensive. He’s not going to operate on the bad guy’s terms anymore—he’s taking matters into his own hands, and he’s going after the bad guy. This is the proactive hero’s playing field now.

In the middle of this part (5/8s of the way through the story), comes Pinch Point 2, which is just like PP1—a show of how bad the bad guy is.

Part Three ends with a lull before the Second Plot Point, our last new information in the story. This last revelation is often the key to solving the mystery or fixing the problem—it’s the last piece of info the hero needs to make his world right. This comes 75% of the way into the story.

And now we’re ready for Part Four, the Resolution. Our hero steps up and takes the lead for the final chases, the last showdowns. Here we get to see how much of a hero he really is—he passes his final tests, proves he’s changed and finally, saves the day.

What do you think? Can you see this in place in your writing, or in other works? What advantages do you see to this method?

Photo credits: structure—Christopher Holland; gasp—Becka Spence; attack—D. B. King

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • StumbleUpon
  • Email
  • RSS

The Hero’s Journey with Story Structure

This entry is part 18 of 24 in the series The plot thickens (Mwahahaha)
Pinterest

by C. Michelle Jefferies

Brooks’ Story Structure is, in my opinion, the best prescribed formula for how to place a story together. However, I originally used The Hero’s Journey (hereafter referred to as HJ) to plot out my current WIP. A lot of what is also called “The Mythic Structure”, within the HJ, makes sense as a template as to where to place each item the story needs. One thing I disliked about HJ was the common opinion that you could move items around to your liking, therefore maybe putting certain things in the wrong place.

I have found, however, that HJ is a good characterization tool for creating a proper arc. It can also add understanding to Brooks’ Structure if applied properly. Used together I find that I have a more, well-rounded picture of the story.

What we recognize as Concept and Theme in Structure, is the Story Question in the HJ. The question I asked is: Can the MC survive being dumped by the man she thought was her life, and move on? A secondary plot question is: Which guy is right for my MC? These questions begin the thought process of how my character is going to grow in this story—the beginning of that character arc.

The Ordinary World in HJ is the equivalent of Part one: Introduction in Structure. We see the main character, who is at a fancy restaurant, unknowingly waiting for her date to dump her. As character arc, we are finding out what her ordinary world is: what she is thinking, what she is wearing, whether she likes the restaurant and how excited she is about getting married. This is the place for us to start identifying with the MC and establish emotions and rapport with her. Because, when that devastating information comes, we want our reader to be emotionally invested in the MC, enough that they don’t put the book down.

We introduce theme and set things in action by ‘calling the MC to action’, or reaction on her part. The Call to Action in HJ is not plot point #1. Although the event is important, the MC or Heroine, refuses to act. The Call is the boyfriend dumping her in public, which leads us to the Refusal of the Call. My MC goes home and cries, thinking her world is over. She locks herself in her room with a half gallon of ice cream. These actions are giving us more depth into the characters’ personality.

At this point in time we also have what is called Meeting with the Mentor. Sometimes the mentor is the one delivering the call. Sometimes it is the person the MC goes to for advice and help. My MC doesn’t have a “mentor.” She has her friend, who just happens to be a guy, who she goes to for advice and safe friendship after the disastrous date. The relationship between the MC and the mentor is another way that we develop character. How they relate reveals a lot about the MC.

Next, we experience what HJ calls Crossing the First Threshold or plot point #1. The MC is at work, and her friend talks her into going out with his brother. By accepting the date with her friend’s brother, she has accepted that the ex is a jerk and she needs to move on, thus figuratively putting the ice cream securely in the freezer. She moves from what we saw as her ordinary world into the new reality. This area is often a point where our MC struggles to become better and braver, and to take that step into the post-First Threshold world.

Now we enter Part two: reaction, the Tests, Enemies, and Allies stage of the book. This is where the MC adjusts to her new reality—post ex. She begins down a road of new possibilities. Characters, enemies, and trials are introduced during this part. This is where in the “tree” theory after you put your character in the tree, (Crossing the Threshold), you begin to throw small rocks at her. The MC reacts to what her life has dealt her.

As we Approach the Innermost Cave which is Structure’s Mid-point the plot begins to get serious and the “rocks” get a lot bigger. This point is often a place where the writer reveals information to the reader that opens up whole new possibilities. Sometimes the reader knows something that the MC doesn’t even know. My MC finds that she has feelings for both of the brothers. The guy friend finds that he has feelings for the MC too and hates that he has introduced her to his brother. By his “code,” he should back off and let the older brother have his chance with her.

This “reaction” from both the friend and the MC leads us to Part three, proactive stage. This is a time of trials for the MC. She finds out who her real friends are and what she is made of, the previous trials proving her mettle.

As we near The Ordeal, we can have either the “lull moment” where the characters think all is lost and there is no hope, or a “I’ve finally succeeded and this is the end, only to find out it isn’t” moment. My MC has an all is lost moment, and feels that she will never know who is right for her, and she will be single her whole life. This point in the story is a place where we again feel sympathy for the MC and deepens our concern for what happens to her.

The Ordeal or Plot point #2 comes at about [3/4s or] 4/5s way through the book. This is the huge crisis moment, the event that changes everything. After this point in time, no new characters or information may be allowed into the story. The MC is at Thanksgiving with the brother and has had a heated moment with the friend who she thought wasn’t interested. The spark is still there and it has grown stronger. The brother proposes and she has to make a decision—to live a relatively happy life with a good guy, or take a chance with the friend and truly love someone. She says no and runs. The friend follows her at the brother’s request, oblivious to the attraction between them. This is the refining fire for our MC, the culmination of all previous actions. This is where the reader is cheering for the MC to succeed.

Her decision is the Reward. She has proven herself, and has demonstrated to everyone that she has grown and is stronger for it. We are still cheering for her and her success.

What Structure calls Part four, resolution, HJ calls Return With Elixir. The Ordeal brings us massive change in the MC’s life. Now that everything has changed for my MC, she makes decisions that bring about resolution. She confesses her feelings and they finally kiss. They live happily ever after, or at least until the book ends. This is where the MC moves into the new ordinary world and we see not only the comparison to the old world but we see the Story Question answered. We tie up all the loose ends for the reader as well.

What do you think? How would you line up the Hero’s Journey and Story Structure?

About the author
C. Michelle Jefferies practically grew up in a library. When she was ten, she realized she wanted to write stories like the science fiction books she loved to read. A mother of six, she put her writing on the back burner while she focused on raising her young children. When her children were old enough for her to spend a few hours on the computer, without them burning the house down, she returned to writing and hasn’t stopped since. She blogs at My life in a laptop.

Photo credits: path—Kat Gloor; path through structure (bridge)—Jo Ann Deasy

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • StumbleUpon
  • Email
  • RSS

Story structure in action

This entry is part 17 of 24 in the series The plot thickens (Mwahahaha)
Pinterest

by C. Michelle Jefferies

We’ve been talking about Story Structure according to Larry Brooks’ formula. There are many single elements that, combined, make a solid structure. These include: concept, theme, the four parts of story (introduction, reactive stage, proactive stage, and the resolution), and the five points in the story that move the plot along (plot point #1, pinch point #1, mid-point, pinch point #2, all is lost moment, and plot point #2).

What I have been asked to do today is illustrate how I have used all of these individual points to make a story with a solid structure in my own work. My next post will deal with how the Hero’s Journey can be used to augment the character arc.

The first thing we need to address is Concept, as in “what is the story about?” In two words, my story concept is about second chances. Theme, on the other hand, is more detailed. My theme is: pursuing their dreams and finding happiness by making up one’s mind and taking action.

Once we have concept and theme we can concentrate on the parts and points in the story. To give you an example that flows well, I will be using both the parts and points in the order they are supposed to be in, rather than addressing them separately.

Part one: Introduction—we see the main character, who is at a fancy restaurant waiting for her date. She is dressed to the nines, expecting this to be the dinner when he proposes. Instead of proposing, he tells her it’s over—that there’s another girl. She goes home devastated and publicly humiliated. We see her life in the after effects of that action. We introduce theme and set things in action by “calling the MC to action”, or reaction on her part. However, that isn’t the first plot point. Although the event is important, it comes too soon, and doesn’t deal directly with the main plotline of the book.

Next, we experience plot point #1the MC is at work and her friend who just happens to be a guy talks her into going out with his brother. This is where the MC can either accept or decline. However, she will accept the “blind date” because the story doesn’t move forward if she chooses not to. Plot point #1 brings us to the second part of the book.

Part two: Reactive stage—this is where the MC is going to be reacting to the first plot point and in my case the introduction of the theme. The MC is feeling confused. She thought for sure that the ex was “the one” and is feeling less than pretty and very imperfect—all reactions to the theme. She has a good time with the brother and that leaves her feeling confused too, wondering if her feelings for the ex weren’t true and whether she knows what she is thinking at all.

Pinch point #1 is where the reader is reminded of the plot and the opposing forces. The MC sees the ex with the new girl. It hurts more then she thought it would. Her first line of defense is her guy friend. He comforts her and makes her feel better.

The Mid-point is when things change. This point is often a place where the writer reveals information to the reader that opens up whole new possibilities. Sometimes the reader knows something that the MC doesn’t even know. My MC finds that she has feelings for both of the brothers. The guy friend finds that he has feelings for the MC too and hates that he has introduced her to his brother. By his “code,” he should back off and let the older brother have his chance with her. This “reaction” of both the MC and the guy leads us to part three.

Part three: Proactive stage—now the MC has moved from reacting to plot point #1 to being proactive and starting to do things to remedy the situation. My MC is watching both guys carefully and assessing her feeling for each of them. She makes opportunities to talk with the friend while still dating the brother.

Pinch point #2—Another crisis point in the story, edging up the pace and arc. The MC sees her friend with another girl and her jealousy flares.

Often times at this point, Brooks suggests that there is a “lull moment” where the characters think all is lost and there is no hope. This would be the MC going home eating a pint of ice cream and crying while watching some sappy love movies.

Plot point #2 comes at about [3/4s or] 4/5s of the way through the book. This is the huge crisis moment, the event that changes everything. After this point in time, no new characters or information may be allowed into the story. The MC is at Thanksgiving with the brother and has had a heated moment with the friend, who she thought wasn’t interested. The spark is still there and it is stronger. The brother proposes and she has to make a decision—to live a relatively happy life with a good guy, or take a chance with the friend and truly love someone. She says no and runs. The friend follows her at the brother’s request, oblivious to the attraction between them.

Part four, resolution—plot point #2 brings us massive change in the MC’s life. Now that everything has changed for my MC, she makes decisions that bring about resolution. She confesses her feelings and they finally kiss. They live happily ever after, or at least until the book ends.

What do you think? Does seeing the points of the story illustrated make the application a little clearer? How would you apply the structure to a romance?

About the author
C. Michelle Jefferies practically grew up in a library. When she was ten, she realized she wanted to write stories like the science fiction books she loved to read. A mother of six, she put her writing on the back burner while she focused on raising her young children. When her children were old enough for her to spend a few hours on the computer, without them burning the house down, she returned to writing and hasn’t stopped since. She blogs at My life in a laptop.

Photo credits: house frame—Robin Frousheger; concrete house—Concrete Forms

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • StumbleUpon
  • Email
  • RSS

Overview of Larry Brooks’s Story Structure

This entry is part 16 of 24 in the series The plot thickens (Mwahahaha)
Pinterest

This is the most recent plotting method I’ve come across. Simply called “Story Structure,” this method gives great advice for partitioning your story as well as the major events and turning points. I used it in my most recent WIP (which I reached the end of late Saturday night 😀 ), and it was really helpful to pace myself (though I ended up short on word count, I know I’ll add more in revisions).

Larry Brooks, author of many, many scripts, four published novels, and the blog StoryFix, published this in a blog series. It’s very much worth it to read the Story Structure full series, but I’ll give a quick overview here.

The structure is in four parts with three turning points separating them (plus two “pinch points”). Each part of the story should be about one quarter of the story.

Part one is the Set-up. In this part of the story, we meet the characters and are introduced to the story question. (If you’re reading this and thinking “Oh, the Ordinary World,” you’re not alone.) Here we also establish what’s at stake, but most of all, we’re working up to the turning point at the end of this part: Plot Point 1 (what we commonly call the Inciting Incident).

Brooks says that First Plot Point is the most important moment in your story. Located 20-25% of the way into your story, it’s

the moment when the story’s primary conflict makes its initial center-stage appearance. It may be the first full frontal view of it, or it may be the escalation and shifting of something already present.

This is a huge turning point—where the whole world gets turned on its head. (If you like, you can say this is where we formally pose the story question.)

PP1 bridges into Part 2—the Response. The hero/heroine responds to the first plot point. This response can be a refusal, shock, denial, etc., etc. That doesn’t mean they have to do nothing—they have to do something, and something more than sitting and stewing—but their reactions are going to be . . . well, reactive. The hero(ine) isn’t ready to go on the offensive to save the day quite yet—they’re still trying to preserve the status quo.

In the middle of this part (about 3/8s of the way through your story), comes Pinch Point 1. Brooks defines a pinch point as “an example, or a reminder, of the nature and implications of the antagonistic force, that is not filtered by the hero’s experience. We see it for ourselves in a direct form.” So it’s something bad that we get to see happen, showing us how bad the bad guy is, raising the stakes.

At the end of the Response comes the Mid-Point. As the name suggests, this is halfway through the story. And here, the hero and/or the reader receives some new bit of information. It’s pretty important, though—this is the kind of revelation that changes how we view the story world, changing the context for all the scenes that come after it.

Then we swing into Part Three, the Attack. Now our hero(ine) is ready to go on the offensive. He’s not going to operate on the bad guy’s terms anymore—he’s taking matters into his own hands, and he’s going after the bad guy. This is the proactive hero’s playing field now.

In the middle of this part (5/8s of the way through the story), comes Pinch Point 2, which is just like PP1—a show of how bad the bad guy is.

Part Three ends with a lull before the Second Plot Point, our last new information in the story. This last revelation is often the key to solving the mystery or fixing the problem—it’s the last piece of info the hero needs to make his world right. This comes 75% of the way into the story.

And now we’re ready for Part Four, the Resolution. Our hero steps up and takes the lead for the final chases, the last showdowns. Here we get to see how much of a hero he really is—he passes his final tests, proves he’s changed and finally, saves the day.

Simple, right? Uh, kind of. Since examples always help me, we’re going to have a guest post this week talking about how this author is applying this structure to her story. And of course, I need to give credit to the person that pointed out Larry Brooks’s story structure to me, Jaime Theler.

What do you think? Can you see this in place in your writing, or in other works? What advantages do you see to this method?

Photo credits: structure—Christopher Holland; gasp—Becka Spence; attack—D. B. King

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • StumbleUpon
  • Email
  • RSS