Thursday, March 5, 2009

Structure and the Cycles of Stories

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend the LTUE Writer’s Conference. It was remarkable. I learned so much and got to network with other writers. Some who puzzled and bewildered me, others that astonished and stunned me. There was even one writer who scared the begeebies out of me. Really, all she had to do was look at me and I had a panic attack. (But she was saying hi to me by the end of the conference). It was fantastic (and a bit terrifying).

The days were filled with class after class about writing, podcasts, and panels. There was one class that stood out for me, it was John Brown’s class. You can see his downloads and notes at He not only knows his stuff, but he was funny as well (so I didn’t fall asleep – yay!). He taught us about the story cycle…character inciting, problem, reaction, action, disaster (really, you need to go to his website).

In my college writing class, I am learning about structure (I have been doing a synopsis for each story I am working on). With the information from the two classes combined, I have found the perfect structure for a well written story (which also means I have to tweak a few things in my current book – but that’s OK, I only cried for a couple of days).

Which brings me to my point (yeah, it only took me half the morning). There is a trick to a well written story. One can’t sit down and just start writing something (which I used to think was the way everybody wrote – and the way I wrote my 1st book – big mistake). A story must not only be interesting, but the story itself must not go all over the place. It has to have a structure.

If you read a really good book or watch a really good movie you will begin to see the pattern. I highly recommend watching a few movies and picking out the different points that keep the story moving.

Here they are:

Introduction: (the sooner the action and tension, the better) Your main character must make a decision or be thrown into a situation which will take them in one direction or another.

1st disaster: caused by decision or situation.

2nd disaster: keeps the story moving, the problem is out of the main character’s control, but the character has no choice but to continue.

3rd disaster: The final disaster which brings us to the climax of the story and resolves all loose ends, bringing us to the conclusion of the book.

And that’s just the structure and story cycle! There is also character building, tension, character’s desire or goal, or there is so much to learn! That’s why a writer’s conference is so important, plus you get to meet really cool and scary people. It’s so awesome! But next time, I am buying the super gigantic bag of MnMs. I finished mine the day before the conference started. I have no self control with those things.


LexiconLuvr said...

John Brown's class changed my entire perception. (And Clint Johnsons class rocked too!)

You picked things out of his class though that I didn't see. Thank heavens you posted this! Now I can steal your knowledge and run with it! GWA HA HA HA HA!!!!

Heidi Ashworth said...

I want to know who the scary author was. Was it Steph? Was it? Was it, huh? Huh?

Scarlet Knight said...

L.T. Wasn't that class awesome!? I need to take your notes and see what you have written down. :)

Heidi, it was not Steph. But that would have been super cool!
I don't dare say who it was, because...the thought still scares me. But she is really good friends with Orson Scott Card. That is all I can say. *head hung low in reverence.*

Tristi Pinkston said...

Hey there,

Saw your comment on LDS Writers Blogck that you're coming to the conference and just wanted to pop over and meet you! See you there!