Anatomy of a Best-Selling Story—Part Two

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Mike Licht

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Mike Licht

Last post, I started talking about the dreaded topic…structure. I write these posts because I really DO want you guys to succeed and as an editor for far too many years, the single biggest reason most new novels flop? Structure. Pretty prose does not a novel make. Each of these blogs will build upon the previous lesson. By the end of this series, I hope you to give you guys all the tools you need to be “structure experts.”

Yes, even the pantsers.

Structure is one of those topics that I feel gets overlooked far too much. There are a lot of workshops designed to teach new writers how to finish a novel in four weeks or three or two or whatever. And that is great…if a writer possesses a solid understanding of structure. If not? At the end of 4 weeks, you could very likely have a 60K word mess that no editor can fix.

Finishing a novel is one of the best experiences in the world, but wanna know the worst? Pouring your heart and soul into a novel, finishing it, and then finding out it is not publishable or even salvageable. I make a lot of jokes about my first novel being used in Guantanamo Bay to break terrorists.

I’ll tell you where the bomb is just not another chapter of that booook!

Some of you might be in the midst of having to face some hard truths about your “baby.” If you have been shopping that same book for months or years, and an agent has yet to be interested, likely structure is the problem. If you went ahead and self-published, but sales are lackluster? Again, problem might be structure. Many of you might have a computer full of unfinished novels. Yes, again, structure is likely the problem.

Good news is that most structure problems can be fixed, although many times that requires leveling everything to the foundation and using the raw materials to begin anew…the correct way and killing a lot of little darlings along the way.

Last post, I broke the bad news. Novels have rules. Sorry. They do. I didn’t make this stuff up. When we don’t follow the rules, bad things happen. Just ask Dr. Frankenstein.

Authors who break the rules do so with a fundamental understanding of rules and reader expectations. Remember the pizza analogy? We can get creative with pizza so long as we do so with an appreciation for consumer expectations. A fried quail leg on filo dough with raspberry glaze is not recognizable as a pizza. We can call it pizza until we are blue and a consumer will just think we’re a nut.

Same with a novel. Readers have expectations. Deviate too far and we will have produced a commodity so far off the standard consumer expectations that the product will not sell…which is why agents won’t rep it. Our novel can be brilliant, but not sell. Agents are interested more in making money than breaking literary rules. Rumor has it that agents do have to make a living.

I can tell if a writer understands structure in ten three pages. So can an agent. We are diagnosticians and when we spot certain novel “diseases” we know there is a big internal problem. We’ll discuss two major symptoms of a flawed plot today, but first we are going to pan the camera back this time. Last time, we zoomed in and looked at the most fundamental building blocks of a novel. Today, we are going to get an aerial shot—the Three Act Structure.

Aristotelian structure has worked for a couple thousand years for very good reasons. To paraphrase James Scott Bell in Plot & Structure (cuz he says it the best, but do yourself a favor and get his book, STAT!):

There is something fundamentally sound about the three act structure, and it is very much in harmony with how we live our lives. Three is a pattern. Childhood is short and introduces us to life (Act I). Most of our living comes in the middle span of years (Act II), and then we are old and we die and that sums up our existence (Act III). We wake in the morning (Act I) then have the day living life (Act II) and then night ties things up (Act III). When we are confronted with a problem we react (Act I) then spend the greatest amount of time searching for insight and looking for an answer (Act II) and then finally the solution (Act III).

Three act structure has endured thousands of years because it works. Beginning, middle and end. We can ignore the three act structure, but we do so at our own risk that our work will fail to connect with readers.

Beginnings present the story world, establish tone, compel the reader to come on the adventure, and introduce the opposition.

Middles deepen the character relationships, keep the reader emotionally invested in the characters, and sets up the events that will lead to the final showdown at the end.

Ends tie up the main plot and any other story threads and provide a sense of meaning.

(If you don’t yet own Jim’s book, buy it today. It is a must-have for every writer’s library.)

Ideally, our story’s tension will steadily rise from the beginning to end, getting more intense like a roller coaster. Think of the best roller coasters. They start off with a huge hill (Inciting Incident that introduces the ride) then a small dip to catch your breath, and then we are committed. If the biggest hill is at the beginning of the ride, the rest of the ride is a total letdown.

A well-designed roller coaster gives escalating thrills—bigger and bigger hills and loops—with fewer troughs to catch our breath and all leading up to the Big Boss loop, then the glide home to the other side of where we began. We all want to get to the Big Boss loop, but we do so with a mix of terror, dread and glee. Same with a good story.

Great roller coasters are designed. So are great novels. Everything is done with purpose.

Two major problems will occur when we fail to follow this design. In almost seven years of running countless plots through my workshop, I have given them names—Falcor the Luck Dragon and The Purple Tornado.

Meet the Luck Dragon

Remember the movie The Neverending Story? Beautiful movie and amazing special effects…but (in my opinion) a HORRIBLE story. I loved the movie, too. I have a soul. But I feel this movie is remembered and loved more for great effects and puppets, not the storytelling.

The beginning starts with The Nothing eating away a world we haven’t been in long enough to care and gobbling up critters the viewing audience hasn’t even been introduced to. Total melodrama. And the solution? A boy hero who the viewer doesn’t know from a hole in the ground and who, truthfully, isn’t nearly as likable as his horse that sinks into the Bog of Despair.

Yes, I cried.

So High Council instructs unlikable boy hero to go and talk to the Northern Oracle. Northern Oracle is a giant turtle that is suffering depression and is apparently off his meds. Northern Oracle tells boy hero the answer to their problems rest with the Southern Oracle…but it is ten thousand miles away.

Boy trudges off depressed and defeated and music rises to cue the audience that we are supposed to care. Unlikable boy hero falls into the swamp…oh but Falcor the Luck Dragon swoops down from the sky and flies him ten thousand miles to the Southern Oracle. How lucky for the boy hero. Better yet. How convenient for the screenwriters that Falcor was there to bail them out of a massive plot problem.

No, your protagonist cannot find a journal or letters or some contrived coincidence to bail her out of a corner and get her back on track. That is what I call a Luck Dragon. Don’t think you can sneak a Falcor by an agent or editor either. There is no camouflaging this guy. Have you seen the movie? He’s HUGE, and he will stand out like, like…like a Luck Dragon bailing you out of a plot problem. But take heart. Looking at structure ahead of time will make all actions logical and Falcor the Luck Dragon can stay up in the clouds where he belongs.

Watch out for that Purple Tornado!

Next plot problem? The Purple Tornado. What is a purple tornado? So glad you asked. I once worked with a writer who had a YA fantasy. By page 30 there was this MASSIVE supernatural event with a purple tornado. This writer clung to the purple tornado scene until I thought I was going to break his knuckles prying it away from him.

Why was I prying the purple tornado from his hands? Because he couldn’t top the purple tornado!!! He had his Big Boss Battle, his grand finale, his giant loop too close to the beginning. The rest of the book would have either been a letdown or totally contrived.

Plan where that loop will be situated and put it in the spot that will evoke the greatest emotional reaction…at the end.

I see too many new writers trying to “hook” the reader with some grand event like a building exploding. Well, okay, but what are you going to do for the grand finale, blow up a city? The planet? It’s too much too soon and before anyone even cares.

Structure.

I hope you guys get a lot out of this series. I know it took me years to learn some of this stuff and part of the reason I sat down and wrote this series was to help shorten the learning curve. I would imagine most of you reading this would like to be successfully published while you are still young enough to enjoy it. Join me on Monday for more on structure and plotting.

What are some problems you guys have faced in plotting? What are the biggest struggles? Do you have any suggestions for books on the subject or methods you use that you could share? Have you been guilty of a Falcor or a Purple Tornado? Share your thoughts.

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of MAY, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

Will announce the Dojo Diva winner on next DD post.

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook

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  1. #1 by s.a.klopfenstein on May 8, 2015 - 12:54 pm

    I think the part I struggle most with is the beginning. I have a novel I have been working on for a long time. I am trying to do a lot of planning before I begin the fourth re-type from scratch. Once things get going, I really like it. But I still am not happy with how things start out. I am not happy with several things, but especially the beginning. I think a lot of it, as I have been doing some honest analysis lately, is that it takes too long for things to get moving. I felt I needed all that time for worldbuilding and character development, but it’s too much, I think.

    Thanks for this series! It is really helping me out so far. I am ordering Plot and Structure now!

  2. #2 by s.a.klopfenstein on May 8, 2015 - 12:55 pm

    Reblogged this on S.A. Klopfenstein and commented:
    Part Two on Story Structure is definitely worth reading

  3. #3 by Carolyn Paul Branch on May 8, 2015 - 1:03 pm

    Thank you for writing this series! I have the James Bell book, and a bunch of others on plot, structure and outlining. The information is there, but none of those books describe it as well as you do, and none of them make learning the basics FUN the way you do.

  4. #4 by Next Step to Nirvana on May 8, 2015 - 1:30 pm

    I have never written a novel. A lot of prose. And your point in the series about good prose does not make a novel is a brilliant observation. Which is exactly what I am struggling with right now. Thank you fro writing this series. I will also pass this on to my newly 13 year old son who is also writing his second novel.

  5. #5 by newfsull on May 8, 2015 - 1:46 pm

    Now you have me a little scared.
    I have finished my second book, and by page twenty I have a very large life and death situation confront my heroine; at the same time I drop little hints of an ever greater menace to come.
    By 30 % in the story, I give the reader what looks to be the most important world shattering event, that her parents very much involved in.
    Yet again, I manage by the middle of the book, to offer up the big one – the event I had been hinting at from the begining. I resolve the first two, and bring all the players in the first two events to battle together in the last one.
    90,000 words. I’m screwed, right?

  6. #6 by Judy Hudson / Writer on May 8, 2015 - 1:58 pm

    Nothing like a little crash course in structure before going back to editing. Thanks for this.

  7. #7 by S.M. Vance on May 8, 2015 - 2:09 pm

    I have the opposite problem to Mr. Klopfenstein’s above. I have very little patience for world-building, either reading or writing it, and I fear my readers (should I ever have some) may be lost before they get through the first scene. I agonized over the first two chapters of my current project for years, and finally decided that I’m just going to write what I like to read and trust in the reader’s imagination to personalize the finer details. I know that way comes with the responsibility not to override the reader’s image by providing details later, but that’s a discipline I rather enjoy.

    For plotting and structure, I absolutely treasure “Writing to the Point” by Algis Budrys. It’s a few years old though, like most of the craft books that speak to me best, so I am really enjoying your series so far, Kristen, and looking forward to the rest of it. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and experiences with us.

  8. #8 by Daven Anderson on May 8, 2015 - 2:21 pm

    I’m an opposite of the “Purple Tornado” writer. Left to my own devices, I’d put (something like the) Purple Tornado right *after* the Act III climax, just to mess with readers’ heads.😈
    “Yay, the boss villain has surrendered! Oh, wait, look out, here comes a shotgun purple tornado!”

  9. #9 by Lynette Mirie on May 8, 2015 - 2:34 pm

    Just spotted the convenient but deadly “Luck Dragon” in my manuscript. Brainstorming a way to run him out of there.

  10. #10 by Elissaveta on May 8, 2015 - 2:42 pm

    Bell’s book is indeed fantastic. I read it once then tucked it away on my bookshelf, ready to pick it up again when I get to the long-awaited editing stage.

  11. #11 by Pirkko Rytkonen on May 8, 2015 - 3:06 pm

    What I struggle with is the middle, to have enough events to increase tension. I know where the big black moment happens, but the middle is hard. I like structure.

  12. #12 by Jean M. Cogdell on May 8, 2015 - 3:10 pm

    Reblogged this on jean's writing and commented:
    Yea, here’s the second installment from Kristen Lamb. The timing couldn’t have been better for me. I’ve been working on my story structure the last few weeks. Trying anyway. So thanks Kristen.

  13. #13 by Anne Marie on May 8, 2015 - 3:22 pm

    I agree, middles are difficult. I’ve done a lot of editing so my story doesn’t lag. Not sure I’m there yet. Thanks for this great post!

  14. #14 by Cathy Parker on May 8, 2015 - 3:24 pm

    Good blog. Here is my question: how do you differentiate between the luck dragon and a member of the cadre that the hero picks up on her Quest? This companion might seem fortuitous to the reader at first but the author knows why he’s there and eventually the plot requires him.

  15. #15 by Lauren Craig on May 8, 2015 - 3:33 pm

    Reblogged this on Blog of a College Writer.

  16. #16 by Shelby on May 8, 2015 - 4:43 pm

    This has me thinking. I do feel like there are spots in my novel that are anti-climatic, maybe structure is the problem. I don’t think I do my big loop at the beginning, though I do, do a big hill. My big loop is at the end when he saves the princess, but still perhaps the middle is a bit contrived. What is the best way to see if this is the case? I have a few characters that create an outside conflict, for example, the evil princess and the guild, but I think most of the conflict comes from the good princess deciding on whether she will marry the warrior or not. That is an over simplification of the story, plus it is a trilogy, so this book will have to be act I.

  17. #17 by L.A. Smith on May 8, 2015 - 4:54 pm

    It’s easy to wander off the map, especially when you are a pantser. That definitely happened to me when I wrote my first book. But luckily I realized early enough what was happening to turn the bus around. The challenge for me was that my first book turned into a trilogy, so you have to have this structure in all the books as well as over the trilogy as a whole. Yikes. Tricky.

  18. #18 by Saralyn Richard on May 8, 2015 - 5:05 pm

    Funny—the purple tornado was the mascot of my high school! You make some excellent points about structure. What I really don’t like are novels without endings. It is so obvious that the author or publisher is trying to hook you into buying multiple novels. It must work, or so many contemporary novels wouldn’t be doing this.

  19. #19 by milesmv81writes on May 8, 2015 - 5:33 pm

    Reblogged this on Welcome to My World and commented:
    Part 2: great advice!!

  20. #20 by milesmv81writes on May 8, 2015 - 5:35 pm

    I have about three or four novels sitting on my computer that have the “falcor” problem. Is there a good tool to use when editing that will help reorganize your story? Like a timeline?

  21. #21 by tracikenworth on May 8, 2015 - 5:53 pm

    Just finished Plot & Structure!! I like the down-to-earth talking James Scott Bell does. I’m liking this series of blogs, Kristen!!

  22. #22 by strengthloveandgrace on May 8, 2015 - 6:57 pm

    I’m writing my first book and I might have to do some demolition work to my chapters 1-4. Thank you for sharing, Kristen! I love your blog and find it very informative! – Lindsey Curtis

  23. #23 by Stacy Fileccia on May 8, 2015 - 8:26 pm

    Thank you for taking the time to write such helpful advice. I truly appreciate it!

  24. #24 by Eileen Richards on May 8, 2015 - 8:29 pm

    Thank you. I’m in the middle of plotting a book and these last two posts are a God send. I really needed this right now.

  25. #25 by jorgekafkazar on May 9, 2015 - 1:19 am

    I remember Neverending Story. It was very entertaining. We made the mistake of renting the sequel, later. Holy Guacamole, Batman, it sucked like a fruitbat on a mango.

  26. #26 by Hanna Elizabeth on May 9, 2015 - 4:05 am

    Another great post, Kristen!

    I especially enjoyed your take on The Neverending Story, which reflected all of the reasons I dislike it. You also nailed the reasons I love it. Darn it, I want a Falcor!

    Near the end, you asked us to share our methods for structure. And since I can’t share pictures, the following is a dramatically written, metaphorical reenactment of the graph that I use while writing. (note: some liberties may have been taken for effect). Also, you saved me from having to create a visual of the graph in Paint.net, so thanks! Let’s just hope this sounds as good on paper as it does in my head.😉

    Now visualize, if you will… In front of you stretches a giant ridge-line which you intend to hike. Your goal is to get to the top of the mountain at the far end – the climax, but since you don’t have Falcor to fly you there, you’ll actually have to hike it.

    But first, In the beginning, you’re getting to know the terrain, making your mark on your surroundings, and being marked by them as well. But your goal is firmly set in your mind’s eye as you push forward.

    Along the way, you have smaller hills to climb and obstacles to overcome before you even reach the base of the mountain. All the while, you’re working toward your goal. Every obstacle is a stepping stone toward that goal and every hill is a primer for the next crisis. Each small victory pushes and helps you along. Every stumble you make, every finger cramp you get, builds character and makes you determined to keep going. But don’t forget to rest in the valleys between the hills! You’ll find shelter and water there!

    You’ve been hiking for what seems like an eternity but finally, you look up and find yourself at the base of that mountain. Now you’re going to have to really climb! But first, you need to check your pack and your safety lines, and you need to hydrate. I’m not going to lie, the going is rough, there’s loose gravel and some of it is sheer rock face. You consider stopping, you consider turning around, but you can’t. You’ve come too far (don’t look down!!!) You must defeat the mountain! Your heart pounds and your palms sweat as they try to find a handhold, but step by step you reach the top and heave yourself over. Rolling onto your back, you gasp for breath, elated that you’ve finally made it. Then standing up, you get a good look of where you’ve been and how far you’ve come and think, WOW, i did that! What a wild ride! But I’m stronger for it.

    “WOOHOO! I’ve conquered the mountain!” You yell, so that the whole world can you hear you, arms held out as if you mean to fly all the way home. But sadly, you are not a bird, and Falcor still hasn’t shown up.

    Now’s the easy part right? Wrong! You’ll want to come down the mountain slowly, gently (don’t pass out from the change in altitude!), tying up all those lose ends you’ve carried with you the whole way as you go. Because, let’s face it, it’s been a long, bumpy ride and you’re tired and sore and in need of a shower. Seriously. Go take a shower. You can only live life so long on the edge before even your dog shuns you.😀

    And there ya go! That’s my graph via metaphor. Hope you enjoyed it and who knows, maybe it will be sorta useful (to someone as twisted as me).

    ~ Hanna🙂

  27. #27 by Lisa Womble on May 9, 2015 - 4:31 am

    Very timely series for me. I’m in the final phase of writing the first draft of a book about a friend who is in witness protection (yes, we’re outing him). I’m at a point in the plot where things are very complex, so I’m hoping this helps me pull through the finalizing of the project. My biggest issue with what you’ve presented so far is the opposite of the purple tornado. I’m wondering if the beginning is too slow. I started the book with his childhood because one of my main goals is to show how the poor urban setting is so hard to escape. I also grew up in the inner city with the bulk of my extended family. And even though we all moved out to the suburbs eventually, most of the family is still plagued by what I call “the inner city mindset” which is a powerfully destructive force. I’m hoping the story of this man’s complete transformation will bring hope to those who come from similar backgrounds or face what seem like insurmountable odds. Still, I know the crime related material is the hook and I wonder if I’m taking too long to get to the organized crime syndicate part of the plot. Looking forward to reading the rest of this series. Thanks for sharing your insights.

    • #28 by Author Kristen Lamb on May 9, 2015 - 1:22 pm

      You don’t need to show us his childhood to “show” us. A great example in film is the series, “Justified.” Even though Raylan is an adult and a federal marshall, he is a kid all over again when facing his criminal hillbilly family and the conflict is ugly.

  28. #29 by kim on May 9, 2015 - 7:58 am

    very helpful and informative and well written. Thank you. I’m wondering do these same rules apply outside a “novel”, lets say for creative non-fiction, memoir or personal essay?

    • #30 by Author Kristen Lamb on May 9, 2015 - 1:20 pm

      Three-Act is generally ingrained in all these types of writing to some level or another. Beginning, Middle and End. Otherwise we have no moorings.

  29. #31 by David Schwartz on May 9, 2015 - 8:36 am

    Very interesting review on this week’s Sunday NYT Book Review front page about a new Kate Atkinson novel that addresses this issue head on. It seems that many of our “contemporary” novelists are bored with the Bell approach, but Atkinson uses it to great effect in her new novel. The first pages or so of the review, though speak directly to the impulse to break all the rules of structure and plot, and then the review returns us to why in competent hands the Bell approach is so satisfying.

  30. #32 by Ms. Stretchy Pants on May 9, 2015 - 9:33 am

    Reblogged this on 10 Minutes Past Coffee and commented:
    Part Two of Kristin Lamb’s “Anatomy of a Best-Selling Story” series of posts. Kristin delves into the three act structure with wit and wisdom – again, never boring with Kristin!😉

  31. #33 by Dan Alatorre AUTHOR on May 9, 2015 - 10:12 am

    I enjoyed this post. Thanks for being so helpful!

  32. #34 by bevbaird on May 9, 2015 - 10:35 am

    Once again an article that informs, and educates. Lots to think about. Thanks Kristen.

  33. #35 by Miranda Anderson on May 9, 2015 - 12:05 pm

    Awesome post … thank you so much, Kristen! As a former “panster,” I decided to embrace pre-plotting for my first novel. While I have most of it fleshed out (and about 7 chapters of my first draft), this has come at an invaluable time.
    I’m a bit of an information hoarder, and I would love to screen-shot some helpful passages from this post and the last for easy reference. I was wondering if you would be okay with me uploading those screenshots to my writing board on Pinterest (giving credit and a direct link in the comments)? Thanks again, I love your writing and teaching style and I always glean something helpful from your blog!

    • #36 by Author Kristen Lamb on May 9, 2015 - 1:18 pm

      Use what you need, Hon. It’s what it is here for and credit is always appreciated😀

    • #37 by Miranda Anderson on May 11, 2015 - 12:25 am

      Thanks a million! 😎

  34. #38 by R. A. Meenan on May 9, 2015 - 12:20 pm

    Hmm. I do kind of worry about my beginning. By the end of the first chapter, my two main characters get stuck in a plane crash. It’s not horribly devastating, and I take a long time to set up Normal World and their relationships before the crash, but it doesn’t mean I don’t worry about it. =/

  35. #39 by dcrosewater on May 9, 2015 - 12:39 pm

    Interesting structure conundrum for me: I’ve been writing middle grade manuscripts for a few years, and until now, I’ve written adventure middle grade that sticks to the protagonist throughout their journey, with the total time span being a week or two. Structure was pretty easy to stick to with the adventure/quest mounting in intensity. Now I’m working on a “school story” time span, and my structure is falling apart! How do I keep readers interested when I have to leap a whole month between chapters? I’m noticing that I tend to write three chapters in a row on the same day or two, then have to hurry up and let some time pass. Does anyone have a remedy or suggestion for dealing with this kind of setting? Thanks so much for this post, Kristen! Incredibly helpful as usual!

    • #40 by Author Kristen Lamb on May 9, 2015 - 1:19 pm

      Is there a way to focus on particular events in the school year to tighten the time-line? Like a dance, prom, a game or something big that is integral to the Big Boss Showdown?

      • #41 by dcrosewater on May 9, 2015 - 1:42 pm

        Ooh- good framing idea. While there are several things culminating, there is one particular Showdown event at the end of the school year. I could go back and help tie in preparations and progressions for this event so we see where the protagonist is going. He’s leading a double life in and out of school, and the Showdown is ultimately how he must compromise these two lives. Thank you for the sage advice!

  36. #42 by nancysegovia on May 9, 2015 - 1:59 pm

    Oh Jeez Louise! I gotta go kill my luck dragon, and I know better. *facedesk*

  37. #43 by nancysegovia on May 9, 2015 - 1:59 pm

    Reblogged this on Nancy Segovia and commented:
    Kill the luck dragon, folks. Kill it dead!

  38. #44 by newfsull on May 9, 2015 - 5:25 pm

    Ms Lamb

    You answered my request for a course, and somehow I can no longer find the link. I believe Stephen King is at work here with those little minions that eat up time.
    Yes, I have an idea for a course you might present.
    Take on ten folks $100 apiece. they each submit thirty pages of an opening book. You pick at random, the winner must acknowledge.
    You then pass out the thirty pages to each of us and give us a day to review – yup, you provide guiding questions.
    Next you offer your review of those thirty pages – if they a great why, if they are bad, why – and most importantly – how can they be improved to make a reader crave more.
    yes, i will sign up.

  39. #45 by Kim Frischknecht on May 9, 2015 - 6:52 pm

    My dragon was a cat who had way too many answers at the most convenient times. Luckily, I noticed soon enough that he was omniscient like some kind of cat god. He needed an overhaul.

  40. #46 by Foster Haskell on May 9, 2015 - 9:49 pm

    Thank you for calling out The Never Ending Story, I’ve always hated it. Its like a surrealist painting: some of the individual elements are good but when you step back and look at the whole thing its an incomprehensible mess.

  41. #47 by bkraine on May 10, 2015 - 12:05 am

    I had a luck dragon. In revisions, instead of killing him off, I made him into a full fledged character, gave him flaws, history and a personal agenda. And by the final re-write, he was the anti-Falcor.

  42. #48 by drakes1 on May 10, 2015 - 2:30 am

    I am almost half way through my first psychological thriller novel and although I am a self confessed pantster I did make sure I had a certain level of structure to my story before I started. I have split my story into 3 parts like you suggest. Being a psychological thriller, I really do have to maintain reader interest and am doing so, I think, by creating a crescendo of events leading up to ‘the big one’… Thanks for the post! Mark

  43. #49 by ontyrepassages on May 10, 2015 - 10:53 am

    Reblogged this on Christina Anne Hawthorne and commented:
    Continuing with Kristen Lamb’s talk on writing structure and how that structure is ingrained in all of us…

  44. #50 by tambra nicole on May 11, 2015 - 12:38 am

    Another wonderful blog post, Kristen! I’m so happy I found your blog. Thank you for sharing what you’ve learned. I used to hate plotting but now I love it. Part of my problem was not understanding how closely it’s tied in with character. When I finally did understand so many things became easier and more fun. Books I use frequently are: GMC by Debra Dixon, Writing Novels That Sell by Jack M. Bickham, The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes (and how to avoid them) by Jack M. Bickham and the Prescription for Plotting workbook by Carolyn Greene, which I use lots! Sadly, its longer available.

  45. #51 by taubaasiya on May 11, 2015 - 1:37 am

    Thanks for this. I think my issue is probably wordiness. I think I pay more attention to crafting scenes that linear structure.

  46. #52 by Talia Pente on May 11, 2015 - 6:58 am

    FALCOR WAS A DRAGON??? Yeesh! All these years I thought he was a huge, flying , legless shih tzu!

    Seriously, structure was the last tool in my writer’s toolbox. I don’t know why it took me so long to figure out that structure was the “it” factor. It’s taken me years to figure out. And when I preach it, I get glazed looks from fellow writers. Some people have a nature aptitude for it, but for those of us that don’t, it wastes years of writing agony.

    Talia

  47. #53 by Laura Irrgang on May 11, 2015 - 10:08 am

    My tornado is (I hope) in the right place, but I’m worried it’s not purple enough. I’m waffling on how BIG to make my climax. Too small, and it’s boring, but too over-the-top and it’s unbelievable and annoying. Any advice on getting your climax to ring true to the tone of the rest of your novel? I read as much as I can, so I have a feel for what’s expected in my genre, but I still find writing that section tricky.

  48. #54 by Tamar Sloan (@SloanTamar) on May 12, 2015 - 8:08 pm

    I don’t think I could write without plotting…I need the structure for the creativity to flow. The famous line ‘if you build it they will come’ (Field of Dreams) is very apt for me.

    And I love this blog, I’ve put a link in my own webpage (www.tamarsloan.com), and Kristen’s writing has been instrumental in starting up my own blog, Blue Mood, all about living (and sometimes succeeding!) with depression.

  49. #55 by Bree Vreedenburgh on May 20, 2015 - 7:18 am

    The Neverending Story is my Favorite BOOK of All Time. Poor Falkor. He doesn’t deserve your disdain… Admittedly, the writer did use the device in the book as well (more than once if I remember), but Falkor is A LUCK DRAGON – his job is to create luck!! Oh, and he had scales. Pearl white scales. He didn’t look like an oversized dog. That durn movie has a lot to answer for…..

    However, in terms of plot, I think your advice is sound, and I am going back to revisit my planning. I’ve only written a third of the novel, so if I do need to clean it up, it’s not too massive an undertaking… I hope…

    **PROTECT THE LUCK DRAGON!!**

    • #56 by Author Kristen Lamb on May 20, 2015 - 9:02 am

      LOL. Hey, I LOVE Falcor, too. But let’s face it. The Neverending Story used the Luck Dragon and so that ends it for the rest of us😉 .

  50. #57 by Vitor Machado on May 20, 2015 - 10:43 am

    Well, i’ve been writing a historical novel and I have this unavoidable (kind of) massive event where a city is taken over by enemy forces. 1/3 of the book happens during this battle, mainly because the protagonist and antagonist get separated during this battle both full of grudges.

    Anyway, this is a hell of a big event, allegedly bigger than what is planned for the final: City is taken back, not brutally, but politicaly. The war is just a background, but still, I would like to hear your thoughts.

    Thanks Kristen

    =)

  51. #58 by realnerdworms on May 21, 2015 - 12:54 pm

    This is creepy, you’re totally in my brain with this post.
    I just did a review on a book “series” that had a big freaking Falkor at the end. Even using it in the ending was so crazy! This story, which was really well developed and introduced great, lovable characters in the beginning, rushed through the ending. It leaves the reader feeling gypped and wanting. (In her defense it was her first books….)

    It really makes well executed stories stand out. I’ve also recently read one series that ended so well I was thrilled. Every detail from the first book to the fifth was set up for the finale. At the end, you can look back and see exactly how it all connects and makes perfect sense. Then, you want to reread them just to make sure you didn’t miss anything.

    That’s why I really loved Plot & Structure because he teaches a great way to set those little details even before you really write your novel. It is simple and at the same time powerful. The ‘formula’ is how you develop the impact the story leaves in its wake.

  52. #59 by Sarah on May 22, 2015 - 3:41 pm

    I’m really hoping that my big events are in the right place. You can have big events in the middle of the story as long as you top them in the finale, right? One of my big events happens in the middle. My MC has to fight her mother and kill her, and it’s a huge scene from my book. I’ve wondered if I should move it to later, but I might just be questioning myself unnecessarily. My finale is a battle between a town and a militaristic group that the MCs get caught up in. That seems like a big enough event to top the earlier one, so that I don’t have to move that earlier scene to the end where it might not belong. (At least, I hope so.)

  53. #60 by katkent2014 on May 26, 2015 - 10:53 pm

    Reblogged this on writersback and commented:
    So great. I know I’ve written the “Luck Dragon” and “Purple Volcano” a time or two, myself and had to retract.. You have such a great way of wording things, Kristen Lamb. It is a pure joy to read your blogs. Thank you.

  54. #61 by Katrina on May 29, 2015 - 10:00 am

    I loved your analogies! It’s something I’ll be sure to jot down…just ordered his book on structure..thanks!

  55. #62 by vidhya1983 on May 30, 2015 - 8:23 am

    Reblogged this on scribblings007.

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