So what I should be doing, I guess, is a new year’s eve post. You know, resolutions and review.
Instead I’ll take a break from what I’m doing to tell you what I’m doing. See, I am tired (very tired) of job hunting and have decided to actually work on writing a book. As opposed to doing a few words, and outlines, and that sort of thing.
Work is work. You put in the time. You sweat. You deal with interruptions and get back to it. You do it regularly, and spend a lot more time working than figuring out how to work.
So I’ve got – have had for a while – a stack of story concepts in various stages of advancement. I pulled one out and I’m working on it.
It’s about a traumatized young lady who learns magic is returning to our world and sees her brother captured so sets out to rescue him. When she discovers his captors are the start of a magical invasion she has to learn to believe in herself before everyone and everything she loves is destroyed.
And that paragraph is why I’m stopping to write a post. See, I ran across something a few months ago I’m putting into play. It’s a technique that uses Snyder’s STC story method to focus. Yeah, I’m going to get long winded.
Blake Snyder wrote a book called Save the Cat. It’s a guide originally written to screenplay writers. It sets up a standard of beats and acts – what happens when – based on a 110 page script. It’s got a lot of detractors. Most do so because it’s nearly a formula and worse it’s the formula that most Big Studio Movies tend to follow. Yeah. The other detractors tend to be “there are better”. Which, depending on your particular mindset and methodologies might be true.
That said, it’s a very good book for understanding the mechanics of acts and plots. He discusses the standard beats (critical points), roughly where they fall, and perhaps most importantly why.
And before and during that he mentions that one very important thing is to maintain and be a slave to the logline. What is this story about? It’s your touchstone, and while it can be tweaked as the story progresses it’s also worth noting that major changes /will/ change the story.
That paragraph I put up about the story is my current logline. I’m not completely pleased – I think ‘traumatized young lady’ needs improvement just to name one thing – but just having it down for the past few weeks has made me lock in the story by, well, by a lot.
If you’re trying to do it yourself, here’s the break.
A [flawed protagonist] has/experiences [a catalytic event] and [the break to act 2] that/with [the B story]; but when [the midpoint false peak/defeat] he/she must learn [the theme] before [‘all is lost’ false defeat/peak] (to defeat/stop the [flawed antagonist] and/or his/her plan.)
Brackets are terms from the book which are mostly obvious. The parentheses are something that is sometimes included.
I’d like to point out a couple of things that were enlightening for me.
Protagonists and antagonists are always flawed. And only the protagonist will correct and overcome those flaws. I knew the antagonist needed to be powerful (after all if it weren’t a challenge there wouldn’t be a story) but flawed – a duh moment.
The B story is critical. Not mentioned here but developed in the book is that the solution (aka act 3) is usually developed as a synthesis of the theme AND the B story.
The false peak and defeat are both needed. One is pretty much midway, and the other is a little before the break to the third act. They set the bounds of ‘doing it wrong’ from which the protagonist can do it right. They’re part of the learning process.
As always, part of the reason I write this is so I’ve got it for reference. And with that back to my personal grindstone. The heroine needs to resolve a little puzzle.