So, you’ve made it this far, huh? You’ve taken all the basics of story building (The Tri-Core Substructure, the Five Act Structure, Genre, Genotype, Character Development), you’ve carefully designed your story (Five Stage Plot, The Hero’s Journey, Micro Stories, Episodic Reduction), but that’s not enough for you. You want some tricks and tools to make your story unique…to make it stand out. Most importantly, you don’t really want your reader to figure out what you’re up to. You want to grab the reader by the nose, lead them through your complex, masterful, story weaving, and deliver a climax that will leave them breathless. You want your story to be unforgettable.
Welcome to the club.
Here are a few common tricks and tools you can use to twist your story exactly the way you want. You’ve probably thought of a few of these things, but for the best effect you should make sure they are implemented properly. Each item has some peculiarities you should remember, otherwise your efforts may fall flat or go unnoticed by the reader.
I’ve had the opportunity to do a little mentoring for a talented young writer. I don’t get to mentor often and I enjoy it when I do. Several weeks ago she allowed me to read a short story she had written and to give her a high level critique. What follows below is the critique that I gave, posted here with permission. I thought it might be profitable for other you writers who are enamored with a classical fireside style of story-telling.
First of all, let me tell you that I enjoyed your story very much. I thought the premise was great and for what you did it was written excellently. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the style is something that is mostly unmarketable in the current fiction market.
When I started writing, I imitated all the great classical literature that I enjoyed. Classical literature is heavy on prose, low on dialogue, and mostly passive. In the current market trends, this doesn’t sell. At all. It took me years to learn this lesson. You can still see this classical style in the first drafts of Winter. So I appreciate and understand all about using this style.
Five Stage Plot
The five stage plot is a method of analyzing and planning stories that I’ve mostly developed on my own. The development has come from numerous analyzing of stories and through the study of plotting methods taught by others, like Randy Ingermanson. It is also sort of a reinvention and expansion of the five act structure previously discussed in this series. The five stage plot gets at the story in such a way as to shape the movement of the characters through the story rather than simple defining the major benchmarks. I think once you understand the five stage plot I’m going to lay out, you’ll find it to be a useful tool for planning and developing your own plots.
THE TRI-CORE SUBSTRUCTURE
This week I want to talk about the foundational layer of story building, the Tri-Core Substructure. Shiny, huh? I made that term up myself because neither my publisher nor I could think of a proper pre-existing term.
What is the Tri-Core Substructure? It is the very basic most primitive form of a story: Character, Experience, Reaction. Or in other words, he came, he saw, he did. Each of these three primitive parts of a story can be reduced to the three core parts of which we will be talking about. Character (personal development), Story (experiential objective), Plot (action/reaction).