Better Writing Through Dissection

Everything, be it a novel, a movie, or a television show has to have some kind of plot to move it forward. No plot, to forward motion. No forward motion, nobody enjoys it. But how do you know what’s a good plot and what’s not. As a reader or viewer, you instinctively know what’s a good plot. It’s the thing that makes you want to tell your friends and family what a great <insert media name here> it was.

However, as a writer, plot is often a critter harder to nail down than a whack-a-mole. As Kristen Lamb puts it, a good story is all about structure. She compares it to architecture: do it right and it’s safe; do it wrong and risk fatal mistakes. Fortunately putting it together the right way is simple, if you follow her six guidelines on structure.

  1. Scene and Sequel: scene is the tangible thing that’s happening, while sequel is the emotional thread connecting the scenes.

  2. Three Act Structure: everything has a beginning, middle and end. Putting the story in its correct sequence makes for a good read.

  3. Introducing the Opposition: your antagonist should be introduced as close to the beginning as possible, the first chapter being the best place, and must seem unstoppable.

  4. Test Your Idea Before You Begin: does it follow the LOCK system? (Lead Objective Conflict Knockout)

  5. The Log-line: can you boil it all down to one sentence?

  6. Simply Primitive: keep the plot simple by using Maslow’s hierarchy, the lower on the pyramid the better.

I highly recommend reading each of these posts for a better understanding of each part of structure, then apply what you’ve learned to the next great novel, movie, or television show you enjoy. You’ll not only know why you just can’t wait to tell everyone what a great thing it was, but you’ll know how to do it yourself on The Road to Writing.

Update: Kristen is continuing her series on structure. Be sure to subscribe to her blog for more on what makes structure work.

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