A couple of months ago I came across an article, Flash Forward: The Story Grid in Action, by editor turned blogger Shawn Coyne, in which he talks about the six questions an author should ask themselves regarding the stories they write.
- What’s the genre?
- What are the conventions and obligatory scenes for that genre?
- What’s the Point of View?
- What are the protagonist’s objects of desire?
- What’s the controlling idea/theme?
- What are the Beginning Hook, the Middle Build, and Ending Payoff?
In Shawn’s post he offers the reader an info diagram he calls ‘The Story Grid’, which diagrams the novel, The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris, from start to finish, as well as promises to take the student/reader through the process of what it takes to create a solid story that not only answers the above six questions, but keeps its readers entertained until the end.
Now if you’re a fellow writer reading this post, then you’ll know that the Internet is flooded with a plethora of information on the topic of writing; ranging everywhere from How To Write A Best Seller to Plotting A Compelling Story to Creating Characters Your Reader’s Love To Hate And Hate To Love . . . and if you’re like me, your bookshelves have at least one, if not more, books on every aspect of the writing process.
Let’s face it, we writers don’t lack for resources – be it good, bad or otherwise.
So when I say that Shawn’s future posts on what it takes to write a compelling story/novel are probably some of the best I’ve read, I’m not exaggerating. And if you take his advice and buy/borrow the book ‘Story’ by Robert McKee, you’ll get even more out of Shawn’s articles.
I know I have, and the time spent reading both have revolutionized my entire approach to writing; as a panser as well as a planner.
Before reading Shawn’s blog I began the first draft of every book knowing that in all likelihood, it would take as many as half a dozen or more re-writes before I would be satisfied with enough to actually begin to edit. Now, after reading Shawn’s articles, as well as McKee’s book on the structure of story, I begin every book, every act, every chapter and beat, with a better than good idea of exactly what needs to happen in order for me to bring the story forward to where it needs to be for the next chapter and the next and the next – until the story has a beginning, a middle and an end and can answer each of the six questions.
I’ve even begun to see if I can identify the ‘Global Story’ units (the inciting incident, the complication, the climax, the crisis and the resolution), in movies and other writer’s works).
And here we thought writing was all creative juices and magical fairy dust, right? Who knew writing was going to be such a technical endeavor? (And this coming from the person who invariably spends hours trying to figure out how to put something together, before finally reading the assembly instructions.)
Let’s face it, time is a commodity most authors don’t have a lot of. I certainly don’t. Therefore it’s important we try and make sure the articles and books we do invest in, are worth the time and money spent. In my not so humble opinion, Shawn Coyne’s ‘The Story Grid’, and Robert McCree’s ‘Story’, are two resources I’m confident will meet that criteria. They did for me.
Sharing the journey
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