Story Structure Tools

StorySturcturesSometimes writers fall into trappings of their own enthusiasm (see also: madness).

With this being something like my seventh major re-write of Planes Shifter, I’m trying not to make the same mistakes as my last draft. If I’m going to make mistakes, I’d like them to be different ones, please.

I’ve stopped the NaNoWriMo approach of writing anything and just throwing in randomness to fix a plot hole or move the story hole. I’ve stopped adding every “cool” idea into the gaps left.

I’ve studied the structures a writer can follow and made discoveries about what works for me. But even as I saw the warnings about not using every structure as a checklist, I’ve found myself mis-understanding the tools.

This has been helpful to recognise; because I think I’ve done it since I began writing.


Mis-using the System

At the weekend, I tried to plot out my story so far, and then the “major events” that are still to come using a story structuring method. It seemed to work, and then I tried to apply it to my dual POV romance and became so frustrated when it didn’t match up.

It appears that instead of writing out the key events (call to action, pinch point, middle moment of change etc) and then look at the whole story, I try to link the first two together immeadiately with a single idea or scene. I feel the pressure to fill in the gaps immeadiately; which provides a short-sighted approach and means I’ll have plot holes later on that I could have prevented if I laid out the entirety of main events and then looked at the parallel themes to link them into a flow of scenes.

Essentially, I feel the pressure to plot out every moment using this structure; because I recognise the need in myself after two years to have at least the plot planned out. And so, I’ve turned to leaning on these structures until they break.

And then I’m disappointed.


Defining a (Sub)Plot

I (thankfully) also recognised I’ve been mis-labelling plot for these exercises. Thanks to thinking every single scene must be in this structure, I’ve reverted back to “anything that happens ever must be in it!” which leads me to a subplot list-of-scenes called “Her powers/relationship with magic bird”, which, actually, doesn’t really have any conflicts or setbacks for most of the story. Other things will affect it; but inherently, the only changes are small forward movements.

It’s not a real subplot, it’s just a set of events created by other plots. And so it doesn’t fit into the structure.

Thus, it doesn’t NEED to fit.

Story Structures are there to help plot out major events and the vague direction of plots. The idea is that with those pillars in place, you can fill in the gaps almost however you like; not create a wall of columns.

Do you use a specific method for plotting out your stories?

2 responses to “Story Structure Tools

  1. I think I’m at a similar point in my writing to you – I recently started what must be the fifth or sixth re-draft of my novel, this time making major changes to the setting. Previous re-drafts have massively overhauled the plot and characters. To be honest, I don’t use formal plot structures at all. This may be a huge mistake, I’m not sure! I just meander along until I realise it’s not working, then go back and re-think it all. Having said that, I do know what point I want to get to by the end of the book, so I use that as my anchor.

    This draft I feel is working quite well so far, hopefully! (I’m about 1/3rd of the way through). What’s working for me is keeping each chapter in a separate file and summarizing them, so that if I want to go back and change things I can easily find the right bits. I find this approach suits me pretty well.

    Best of luck with your re-draft. It takes a lot of time but I know you’ll get it just how you want it eventually. The important thing is that we’re both learning more and more about how to tell great stories with every draft!

    • Thanks for your comment – this is the first book I’ve definitely known the ending when I’m still at the beginning, and I think that’s really helping. I hadn’t used any story structure until this rewrite – I tried to fit into my plot rather than plot the story from scratch around the structure – but it gave me enough of a ladder to fill in the gaps – as it happened I already had some of the key elements, so it’s more an inspiration of “hey i need more stuff: I could either work towards this, or this… will those work?”

      I love your idea of having a different file for scenes – I use scrivener which somewhat has that ability, and I summarised each scene in a sentence or two (as pictured) with a tag for the plot-thread so I can keep track. .

      Good luck with your draft too!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.