Monday, December 17, 2012

Story Structure

I've been busy working on a presentation about story structure for my local writer's group.

It was actually a pretty frustrating process because just like everything else that has to do with "writing advice" or "writing rules," there's a lot of conflicting information (I know, color you shocked, right?). One of the most frustrating things about it was that terms are sometimes used interchangeably.

For example: the hook vs. the inciting incident.

In the methods I learned from:

"The Hook" is something in a story that engages the reader and makes them want to read on. It's often a funny or interesting event that displays the nature of a character and raises a reader's interest in the character. It makes the reader say, "Hey! I like this guy. I'll spend 400 pages with him," or "This guy's messed up. I can't wait to see what kind of trouble he gets himself into next. I'll invest my time in the 400 pages to find out."

"The Inciting Incident" is the event that changes the character's life/presents a problem to be solved and is the event that really gets the story rolling.

A lot of the research material I looked at used the term "Hook" to mean the inciting incident. While I'm sure that the two can be the same moment (the moment that piques the reader's interest in the story can be the event that gets the story rolling), they don't necessarily have to be rolled into one.

The Stephanie Plum books from Janet Evanovich are a good example: most of them have an event in the first few pages that lets you know Ms. Plum is a bit of a . . . um . . . klutzy train wreck with a strange, strange life. That piques reader interest and makes them want to learn more about her. Then, a few pages later, there is some event (a murder, a skip, etc.) that actually starts the storyline for each novel. Hook and inciting incident as two separate events.

Okay, enough of my ranting. Here are some of the better links I've found on story structure:

NaNoWriMo Prep: Campbell, Vogler, the Hero's Journey, The Writer's Journey and Narrative Structure Cheat Sheet, by Alexandra Sokoloff

Adapting Story Structure for Any Project, by Lydia Sharp

Seven-Point Plot Outline for Genre Short Stories, by Wendy Wheeler

25 Things You Should Know About Story Structure, by Chuck Wendig

How to Structure A Story: The Eight-Point Arc, by Ali Hale

Story Structure in Short Stories, by Philip Brewer

Comparing the Story Theories of Michael Hague and Dramatica, by Glen C. Strathy

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See you next week!

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