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Story Engineering: anyone want to join in?

Anyone want to study an amazing writing technique with me?

Every bit of writing training I've ever been exposed to has defined "good writing" as clean prose, strong characterization, dramatic conflict, lively dialogue, concise description, etc., etc., etc.

But apart from "It should have a beginning, a middle and an end," I've never had story structure broken down and explained--or even mentioned. I've never consciously observed it in my reading. I didn't really know it existed. It's been all flesh, no bones.

Larry Brooks lays out the bones, and once you see them, you can't unsee them.

Using an engineering perspective and a claim that the human mind just "works this way," Brooks presents a structural template that all good (salable, publishable, popular, memorable, critically successful) stories follow.

His theory explains why Dan Brown is a bestselling novelist without being a "writer" at all by the standards we lit majors ordinarily apply. It's the stuff that makes you forgive plot holes and suspend disbelief and let clumsy prose slide by, because you're too busy turning the pages to mind.

But lest you think it's a method for hacks only: no! the structure applies equally to The DaVinci Code and The Goldfinch, to romance novels and action flicks and long, quiet character-driven dramas. His reductionist bag of bones can be found under the beautiful flesh of most highbrow literary fiction.

In essence, Brooks's structure goes like this:

1. Setup
2. First Plot Point
3. First Pinch Point
4. Midpoint
5. Second Pinch Point
6. Second Plot Point
7. Resolution

If each of those elements, which he defines, comes at the right point, which he quantifies in exact percentages, you can write like Dan Brown and still be considered a great storyteller. If you miss those marks, you can write like [insert your most admired literary star here] and fail.

So I figure, why not write as beautifully as I can and hit the marks? Best of both worlds, right?

A lot of writers and editors no doubt intuit their way to this structure, but I'm done groping around in the dark. This guy has handed me the keys to the room where all the light switches are, and I want to share them. I need a critique/study partner or two to work the method with and get better at applying it.

So who's interested in learning more?

Crossposted from Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comments.


Aug. 11th, 2014 08:38 pm (UTC)
Brooks is kind of the same way. He's careless about some of his terms, and a mind like mine stumbles and fumbles (whereas a mind like that of my friend who attended his seminar says, "You're overthinking this, you Type 4. You're already there!").

Powerpoint is on its way.



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