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Understanding Premise and the One-Sentence Story Concept

Over the last few weeks we’ve been taking a look at key moments in your novel’s structure. This week, before we get into the meat of my 10-20-30 Scene Builder concept, I want to make sure you have a clear understanding of premise and the one-sentence story structure.

We really can’t move forward until you have this nailed, so I’ll do my best to help you get there.

Most writers are clear about the inciting incident or initial disturbance that has to come near the start of the book. Yet, I see way too many novels in which there really isn’t a strong impacting incident. Or it’s in the wrong place.

I recently did a fifty-page critique on a novel (which wasn’t the author’s first novel either) that had fifty pages of setup. Backstory. Telling all about how the characters met, fell in love, got married, etc. What was the stated premise? Basically, it told of a man who has something precious taken from him and must face danger and horror to get that thing back. Huh? What did the first fifty pages have to do with any of that? Nothing. Continue Reading…

Ways Novelists Can Break from the Structural Rules

We’ve been looking at the downside to the three-act structure these last two weeks, and I’ve shared my thoughts on this.

Really, stories are basically a beginning, a middle, and an ending, and some writing instructors base their passion for the three-act structure on this. Meaning, since stories have a beginning, middle, and end, that must imply there are three acts.

You can use Aristotle’s concept and translate your idea into three acts: What is the first act? How the story begins. What is the second act? The middle of the story (which includes the main crisis of the dominant plot). The third act is the climax of the story and the resolution. Okay, it’s simplistic, but that’s how many justify the use of the three-act structure.

Doesn’t make sense to me. Continue Reading…

How to Break Up Your Novel into Definable Sections

Last week I started diving into the three-act structure and explained that such structure is random and arbitrary. While many writing instructors swear by this structure, I feel it’s too pat and restrictive to be a “one size fits all,” and, really, it’s the story that should determine how many acts it needs. And even with that, it’s up to the writer to decide if he wants to break his story up into acts or sections.

This isn’t just about “breaking up” a story or creating actual parts to a novel. While I’m going to share more examples of this, be aware that fashioning your story into sections is extremely helpful, and it’s something you can do without labeling them as such for your readers.

Sometimes, after I’ve put all my scene ideas on index cards (as many as I can think of for my novel I’m about to write), I’ll lay them all out on my dining table. Usually I have between thirty and fifty scene ideas before I start writing my general outline. Continue Reading…

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