All the King’s Horses and All the King’s Men

October 1, 2007 at 8:52 am | Posted in Jessica, plotting, story, storytelling, writing | 1 Comment

What does story mean to you?

“Call me Ishmael.”

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times . . .”

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”

“It was a dark and stormy night . . .”

“Once upon a time . . .”

Our topic this week is a timely one for me because as I try to tear apart the book I just finished (with the intention of somehow putting it back together again) and try to brainstorm the pieces for the next book I want to write, I am struggling with the whole idea of story.

And oddly enough, Jessica Faust, literary agent from Book Ends, recently posted an entry on her blog that gets me at the heart of my issue: What’s more frustrating? A story with a weak plot but is well written or a story with an amazing plot but has weak writing?

For the new book I feel as though I have a great concept. I have gotten the new Chapter One down on the page. I think I even have a decent hook. But once I get the quick particulars out of the way then catapult the heroine into her new world, I am just not sure what to do with her. I feel weak when it comes to the actual conception of the story, and I am scrambling to get my hands on any information that will help me clear this frustrating hurdle.

The Tameri Guide for Writers web site has an excellent web page on Plot and Story, which I highly recommend as a place to start.

Another helpful resource I’ve delved into is Robert McKee’s popular book, Story: Substance, Structure, Style and The Principles of Screenwriting. This book has given me a great chance to sit back, catch my breath, and really think about what story means to me.

In my haste to self-medicate, I also took and am finishing up a Killer Instinct class on How to Grow a Story Spine being taught by the talented writer and teacher, Sylvie Kurtz. Sylvie presented the individual lessons in a straightforward and succinct way and taught us some great things. But one of the best things I took away from the class was her advice to think about those stories that have really moved me or spoken to me or evoked strong reaction in me then study those stories and break them down into their smallest parts.

So over the next few weeks, I look forward to curling up with some of my favorite stories and most memorable characters, and revisit them to discover what it was about them that made them stay with me long after I left their worlds.

My hope is that in doing so, I will understand and have these important elements ingrained in my writing repertoire. With practice, my some-day goal is offer that stay-with-you kind of story that makes and remains on your keeper shelves – to create something that will endure.

This week, my wish is to take all those pieces and find a way to put them back together again . . . and in a way that gives me satisfaction – which, for me, would result in a very happy ending, indeed!

So, go write! It’s what Humpty Dumpty would have wanted. Really.

-Jessica

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