Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Wednesday's Writer"s Tip - Elements of a story

I am on my second copy of Techniques Of The Selling Writer by Dwight V Swain and there is one thing I've done as I plan my stories that he suggests. I highly recommend this technique. This is something I sit down and do with every new story I write. There are times when I don't do this when beginning a rough draft but by the time I end this phase of the story, I know I have to go back and do this.

Recently I started a story and was six chapters into the rough draft and suddenly I realized there were dozens of contradictions in the story and there were plot holes that would need a lot of work to plug. After hitting myself upside the head, I grabbed Techniques of the Selling Writer and the book opened to what I needed to do.

Mr. Swain speaks of the 5 elements needed for a story. Character, Situation, Objective, Opponent and Disaster. Then there is the way to look at these elements to make the story work. He also speaks of the focus character. Remember this doesn't mean the Viewpoint character but this focus character can have viewpoint scenes. The method involves making the five elements into two sentences. One is a statement, the other a question. Sounds simple and it is and isn't. What this does is make you think about your story.

For the story I was having trouble, here is what I finally came up with. Finding exactly what to put took a day of study and a lot of torn up copies of the sentence/question idea. The good thing is once I had this down I was able to really roll on the story and it's moving rapidly toward conclusion.

Ten years ago, Jules Grayson vowed never to return to the town where he'd learned not to trust and had been falsely accused of theft, but business and a friend's wedding bring him back. Can he learn to trust again when the only girl to turn him down wants to help as he faces a second accusation from the past that will force him to take a step that will change his life forever?

The five elements are there. The situation is the vow never to return. Jules Grayson is the character and the objective is the business and the wedding. The objective is learning to trust again and the disaster is the second accusation.

This wasn't an easy one to write. I had also tried to use the girl, Grace Sutton as the focus character and what I learned was Jules had the most to lose and win from the events in the story. I will admit to writing this two prong attack probably 20 times before I found the one that brought all the elements of the story into focus so I could write the story.

1 comment:

Melissa Keir said...

Interesting post. I am a nitpicker with my writing. Sometimes I go over it so much that I don't think I can even see the forest from the trees.