Thanks to the A to Z Blogging Challenge, I find my topics repeating themselves. So, I hope you guys don't mind me recycling posts today. See, I just blogged about this topic on my personal blog, not realizing the same topic was on Wicked Writers. No harm done, though. Saves me time. :)
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There is a formula for correct plot structure. It looks something like this:
- Introduce characters.
- Introduce story goal or theme.
- Characters create a short-term goal as a means to accomplish the story goal.
- The short-term goal is thwarted. Characters react to this then create a new short-term goal.
- The new goal is also thwarted.
- This repeats over and over until the climax is reached (by making the failure worse each time until the tension reaches a breaking point).
- The characters try one more time. This time they beat the opposition.
- The story goal and subplots are tied up. The End.
Relativity simple, right? It's a great way to outline a story. The trouble comes when it's obvious that you used a formula. And there are several authors out there who's writing is formulaic. I won't name them, but you can usually tell who they are because they come out with several books a year and they all sound alike. But, this is a great tool for beginners who may need a little guidance or practice in building a strong plot arch.
As for Scene Structure, remember this sequence: "Action, Emotion, Reaction, Decision."
Seriously, memorize it. I have it written down on a sticky-note and posted on my desk. Allow me to explain.
Action: Always start a scene with action. Remember the saying "actions speak louder than words"? It's true for your characters as well. Act first, explain later. Action is what moves your characters forward. Plot is what movies your characters forward. So, action equals plot.
Emotion: Your characters have to have some sort of feelings about the action that just happened. This is usually their first reaction and it's usually the wrong one. That doesn't mean it's wrong for the character or for the book. What I mean is that this is usually a negative emotion, such as anger, sadness, etc. that will make your character do something dumb out of spite. This is good. This is deep point of view and makes your characters real.
Reaction: This is when your characters start to think more clearly and re-asses what happened. They're more level-headed here.
Decision: Your characters make a decision about what to do next, which leads into the action beginning the next scene. The cycle starts over.
This lesson is a quick summary of a long version from the book "First Draft in 30 Days" by Karen S. Wiesner and is hands-down the most valuable book in my personal library.