My writing journey, Tips and Hacks, Writing Tips

Story Building Mastery 10 – Advanced Complexities

Advanced Complexities

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo, you’ve made it this far, huh? You’ve taken all the basics of story building (The Tri-Core Substructure, the Five Act Structure, Genre, Genotype, Character Development), you’ve carefully designed your story (Five Stage Plot, The Hero’s Journey, Micro Stories, Episodic Reduction), but that’s not enough for you. You want some tricks and tools to make your story unique…to make it stand out. Most importantly, you don’t really want your reader to figure out what you’re up to. You want to grab the reader by the nose, lead them through your complex, masterful, story weaving, and deliver a climax that will leave them breathless. You want your story to be unforgettable.

Welcome to the club.

Here are a few common tricks and tools you can use to twist your story exactly the way you want. You’ve probably thought of a few of these things, but for the best effect you should make sure they are implemented properly. Each item has some peculiarities you should remember, otherwise your efforts may fall flat or go unnoticed by the reader.

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My writing journey, Tips and Hacks, Writing Tips

Story Building Mastery 9 – Episodic Reduction

Episodic Reduction

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harrypottersorcerer-chessIf you read the previous article on Micro Stories, then grasping the concept of Episodic Reduction should be very simple. It also helps to remember the Five Stage Plot, though not necessarily required.

What is Episodic Reduction? It is the reduction of the overall plot into self-contained episodes. Each episode becomes essentially a micro story, exhibiting the various sections of story development common to an entire story. In other words, each episode has exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and denouement, per the Five Act Structure. But, the resolution of each episode should lead directly into the next episode. Episodes should build on each other and often reflect the Five Stage Plot that I mentioned above. Yet at the same time, each episode builds upon the overarching plot.

Let’s outline this a bit to better explain, using the Five Stage Plot as a template.

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My writing journey, Tips and Hacks, Writing Tips

Story Building Mastery 8 – Micro Stories

Micro Stories

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What is a micro story? It’s a story within the story. This is more common with epics than it is with smaller, self-contained stories, but can still be used effectively when done right. The first and most important point in considering putting this into your story, is that micro stories must always work for the greater story. That is why this is so high up on the complexity list, because the foundational story must be firmly established. Each micro story should reflect or add to the foundational story, otherwise it just becomes a spin-off (self-contained unrelated stories grown out of the original). You don’t want spin-off stories, because they detract and distract from the point of the foundational story. Let micro stories work together to create a weaved tale with one common end goal.

There are two major types of micro stories. POV stories and story-arcs. Some writers may equivicate the two into one definition, preferring to call them all “story-arcs.” But I think there’s an important distinction to be made.

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My writing journey, Tips and Hacks, Writing Tips

Story Building Mastery 7 – The Hero’s Journey

The Hero’s Journey

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stardustThe Hero’s Journey, or Monomyth, is a basic pattern for recognizing the major developments in the journey of the main character. It seems that almost every story ever told, from antiquity to modern day, follows this pattern with probably up to 90% completion of every step listed. For the writer who properly understand the hero’s journey, they will develop the ability to predict with reasonable accuracy the outcome of most stories and will have the tools necessary to develop compelling and exciting plots.

The rebels out there are screaming, “Not me! You can’t put me in a box!” Don’t be that way. You’re going to write a bad story. This is not a set of rules, per se. It is an observation over time of how stories work, just like the Law of Gravity came about by the observation of something that naturally existed. The reason the hero’s journey is so prevalent in so many stories is because it is simply the story of life. The ups and downs of life, the dreams and fears, the expectations and goals, the adventurous and romantic spirits…these are things that are part of our lives. It shapes us, our families, our ambitions, our careers, our hobbies. And what so many writers over the ages have done is simply to try to record life. Although often glorified or romanticized, these stories resonate because we want to put ourselves into them, to live them out and take the experiences of the hero as our own. We see ourselves in the hero. We recognize our faults, failures, and successes in those pages.

A good story is a reflection of life. That is why a good story can almost always be described in terms of the hero’s journey, whether the writer intended it to or not. Because a good writer wants to write good stories. Good stories are about life, and the hero’s journey is  life.

Joseph Campbell is recognized for his work in developing seventeen major steps for proper development of the hero’s journey. For those who enjoy the deeper methods of how stories are developed, I’ll include Campbell’s steps alongside my own. But I’ve found that a condensed ten step process is easier to handle while plotting and outlining fiction. Please note that as you begin to use this to analyze your own or some other writer’s stories, that the steps may not appear in the story in any particular order. They might not even all be included. But most stories will have at least eight or nine of these ten steps. On the other hand, keep on the look out for variations of the steps used with multiple characters or even villains and anti-heroes. Genres also make a difference in how it unfolds. A comedy might utilize these steps differently than a tragedy.

Here are my ten steps of the hero’s journey, with the Campbell equivalents notated with each.

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My writing journey, Tips and Hacks, Writing Tips

Story Building Mastery 6 – Five Stage Plot

Five Stage Plot

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The five stage plot is a method of analyzing and planning stories that I’ve mostly developed on my own. The development has come from numerous analyzing of stories and through the study of plotting methods taught by others, like Randy Ingermanson. It is also sort of a reinvention and expansion of the five act structure previously discussed in this series. The five stage plot gets at the story in such a way as to shape the movement of the characters through the story rather than simple defining the major benchmarks. I think once you understand the five stage plot I’m going to lay out, you’ll find it to be a useful tool for planning and developing your own plots.

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