Stories need structure. You don’t have to outline your story but the structure must be there. One of the essential pieces of story structure is the story obstacle or antagonist. As a writer, you know you need a strong obstacle to make a super story, but how does that work on paper? The Power of the Goal and Problem Your character’s goal and his problem must be powerful enough to engage your reader for the length of the story. Thus a short story problem is short and simple. A novel-length story problem is longer and more complex. And a series of novels have even more complex story problems. How do you know your story problem is strong enough for a novel? The answer to that question is in your story structure. Your story starts in the protagonist’s normal world. He has a goal but hasn’t pursued it for internal reasons. If he achieves his goal without difficulty, you have no story. Enter the obstacle or opposition. The obstacle can be one or many things. It can be internal. It can be physical disabilities or challenges. Environmental things such as distance or weather can be an obstacle. Or the obstacle can […]
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.