Wednesday, September 26, 2012
Wednesday's Writer's Tips - More from Orson Scott Card - Idea stories
In the book on How To Write Science Fiction and Fantasy, Orson Scott Card talks about structure to stories. What exactly is an Idea story? This kind of story starts with a question that needs answers. I know I've written a number of stories that follow this pattern. These aren't what if kind of stories. Often found in mysteries the question there needing to be answered is who killed the dead person, or who stole the fortune. But the idea story can also be used in the many genres of fiction . Take romance and start the story with a man or woman facing a choice between two others and the question becomes Who will he or she choose? There may not be many of this kind of story since romance has evolved into the one man and one woman story.
When crafting an Idea story the question that needs to be answered should be brought in as close to the beginning as possible. Most of the time this is true but knowing the rules can help a writer know when to break them. In the first mystery I wrote and several others, the murder didn't happen until far into the story. Knowing when to spring the real question can be difficult. A reviewer once wrote about Murder and Mint Tea, since the murder doesn't take place until well into the book. "If someone hadn't killed her, speaking of the villain, I would have.
The one thing to remember about crafting an Idea story is that once the question is answered the story ends. That can be difficult particularly when the characters have become friends of the author.
The point of an Idea story is the question. Who killed Joe Smith? Where did that artifact arise, a thing that couldn't be part of this life? Both Jim and Harry are wonderful men, but who will Mary choose? What really happened during the battle? When the answer is learned the story is over.