Yes, there are secrets to successful story-writing but don’t worry, the recipes aren’t hard. The ingredients are classic and simple. The directions aren’t difficult. The execution…well, that part’s up to you. Let’s start with the basic M-R unit. Story equals change…equals cause and effect… equals motivation and reaction. —Dwight V. Swain The Motivation-Reaction Unit Remember the Because-But-Therefore statement I talked about in Because There are Lies, Secrets, and Scars? Now we’re digging deeper into that concept. The M-R Unit is the creation of Dwight V. Swain and discussed in his book, Techniques of the Selling Writer. The writer who understands the M-R unit will write a successful story. Success may not come in the first draft. But if you understand the M-R unit, you understand one of the secrets of successful story-writing. In his book, Swain says, “External events have no meaning in themselves, no matter how bland or how violent they may be….They aid in story development only as someone has feelings about them and reacts to them.” Cause and Effect That external event in a story causes the character to have a reaction. Swain calls the event, or cause, a motivating stimulus. The cause, or motivating stimulus, is […]
A child learns to use Lego bricks and builds a tower one brick on top of another. The older the child gets, the more he understands that interlocking the bricks makes a stronger structure. Her structures grow taller, sturdier, and more complex. So it is with understanding story structure. Scenes are the Lego bricks of story structure.
The plot is what happens to your character. The story is about how your character reacts to the things that happen. It’s simple cause and effect, right? Hold on there. It’s not quite that simple. For the most effective story your forces of antagonism (see this post) and your character’s lies, secrets, and scars (see this post) are interwoven. Easy for me to say. Difficult to do. Until you have the golden ticket. What’s that golden ticket? Because there are lies, secrets, and scars and opposition, there is a unique plot. Writers often worry about a story being “done to death.” It’s easy to believe there are no new stories in the world. One look at all the titles in Amazon can overwhelm you. Let’s rephrase. There are no new story concepts in the world. A story concept is reducing the story to the basics. Concepts include: the revenge plot, the detective story, the space marine story, and so on. There are hundreds if not millions of stories about revenge. That’s the test. If it’s a concept, there are lots of other stories like it. So how is a writer to make his story stand out? You make choices. Your […]