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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Story Template and my Daughter, Part Two

I didn't figure writing a novel would be that difficult -- after all, I'd published nonfiction articles and even wrote an opinion column at a newspaper for awhile. However, as anyone who HAS tried to do this will tell you, a novel is a completely different animal. I did four separate drafts of Lever, and threw out more pages than were ultimately published. When I thought about doing another novel, my heart sank because it had taken pure grit to finish Lever and get it good.

Before I started the next one, I decided to study story so that I wouldn't have to reinvent the wheel. What I discovered was amazing, and I kept pursuing it because I saw after a few months that what I was seeing could help MANY writers, not just me. I coach writers in their story structure now, and have developed an algorithm that really seems to work to go from a vague idea to a complete, compelling story. I'm currently writing up my findings for a book, and am pursuing developing a computer program to help blocked writers to move ahead. And yes, after a long time am working on my next novel also :-) (I'm looking forward to entering ACFW's Genesis contest...)

The Story Template is not the only way to write a novel or screenplay, of course, but I believe it is an efficient method. No matter what anyone tells you, writing a story is hard, and it takes some time especially the first or second time you go into it. The Story Template describes common elements, at a deep level, that are present in all (published/produced) stories whether you're aware of them or not. By knowing that they are there, and WHERE they should fall, you can add them if your story is missing something, and make the points bigger and with more contrast so that the story seems more "compelling" (no matter if it's romance, adventure, literary, or whatever genre).


My daughter, who had an amazingly successful science project last year, was interested in branching out a little into the arts without leaving her science background. After pursuing a number of other research possibilities, she decided that the template offered her the best opportunity for combining science and art. I didn't feel comfortable with mentoring and grading her (nepotism, don't'cha know), so she found another scientist-writer to be her mentor with this. I gave her the template, and she developed a plan to test whether the template points all were, in fact, present in all stories. I thought they would be. She found, though, that the classics had a component that the non-classics didn't. This doesn't mean that the non-classics are bad stories -- in fact, they are quite entertaining -- simply that they don't have that lasting resonance that makes the reader or viewer want to revisit the story again and again. Since originally I had chosen only stories that I thought were good in whatever genre to develop the template, I had included this component without even realizing it wasn't always there. Thank goodness for others who check your work!

Sigh. Again, this blog entry of explanation is too long to describe the missing component, so I'm going to save that till next entry (Friday). I did promise letting you know what it was today, though, so here it is: the Hidden Need Triplet. Grace in Monday's comment mentioned an "inner journey" of the character, and this is a general idea for what the Hidden Need Triplet describes. Way to go, Grace! This isn't a difficult component to include in a story, but after looking at my daughter's results, I have to think it's important.

Happy writing, my dear friends.


Andra M. said...

Hey, I'm going through your template now!

I'll let you know how it goes. Would you like me to include my thoughts in my blog -- giving proper credit, of course?

Kat Heckenbach said...

OK, you're killin' us here :). Is this a disguised lesson in creating tension in a novel? Just kidding.

I understand the "inner journey" idea for sure. It's not just about establishing character traits--the MC needs to experience a change. I've got my own ideas about how you're going to expound upon that, but my is brain whirling trying to figure out "Hidden Need Triplet." And you're going to make me wait till Friday!!!

This is a really intriguing series of posts, Amy!