Once the author becomes visible, the enchantment of the story dissolves. The author is the creator of a story, but the author should never be a part of the story. The author is the man behind the curtain. Reveal the man behind the curtain and the Wizard of Oz narrative dies. What sorts of things reveal the author? Here are 12.
I’m very much a believer that writers must find the methods that work best for them. But just as a musician must first understand something about the structure of music (rhythm, tempo, scales, etc.) to be able to invent and improvise, so, too, must a story writer have some understanding of the structure of story.
My previous article featured a list of novel structure resources. Having combed through that list, I found some common ground among the various paradigms I investigated. This post features a video in which I walk through the plot points I saw over and over again in my research.
I’ve done an exhaustive exploration of novel and story structure advice. Below, I’ve assembled what is more or less a bibliography. Consider this a list of resources more than the typical craft tip article. Bookmark this one and come back to it for future reads.
What if you want to write a story other than the redemption tale? The hero’s journey and a slew of other plot outlines will provide little help to you because built into their structural guide is a latter section of the story that is exactly what Macbeth isn’t—an ultimate sacrifice, followed by an epiphany-induced power surge, and a final push toward a (spiritual) full potential.
Storytelling is a complex beast. There are lots of things that appeal to readers: poetic sentences, imaginative alternate realities, sympathetic and/or courageous characters, relatable problems, vicarious experience. But at the scene level, there is really just one simple concept that spurs the reader onward.
Let’s get something straight right off the bat: Your story is about your protagonist. That is, the protagonist is the star. By definition. Even if you have a very engaging and sympathetic antagonist, the reader identifies more with your protagonist’s struggle and desire. If that’s not the case, you have the wrong protagonist.
That’s the first thing to keep in mind when dreaming up and/or depicting your antagonist: the protagonist is the star of the show. The antagonist’s purpose is to serve the author’s goals for the protagonist.
We’ve all heard about the importance of conflict in storytelling. One of my favorite quotes in this regard comes from Charles Baxter, who says, “Only Hell is interesting.” If there’s not trouble in the story, we don’t want to hear about it. That’s not to say we want trouble to win out. On the contrary, when a story has elements of conflict or trouble, they work to expose what’s good and right and true about the protagonists with whom we empathize and sympathize.
But I want to unpack conflict a touch more because it comes in a few different varieties.