Sunday, April 24, 2011

Useful Story Planning Tools

Story Engineering presents six tools that can help structure your story: concept, character, theme, structure, scene execution and writing voice. If you use these concepts, you can structure a story that flows. Knowing where to put major scenes can, by itself, give your story momentum.

Larry Brooks is very much in favor of structure. He firmly believes this is the way to plan your novel, and I agree with him. Too many writers do wander around looking for their story while writing hundreds of pages. Where I differ with him is in his contention that knowing and using these competencies will get you published. If you don't you won't get there. Having read hundreds of novels, I can see that structure is important, but there are a great many published novels that, in my opinion, fail. Structure may be there, but they're dull, characterization is poor, and the subject matter uninteresting.

I felt that his extensive use of Dan Brown's “The Da Vinci Code” was unfortunate. I agree that Brown follows the recommended structure, but without the enticing clues and mysterious background, I don't think the book works well. Perhaps this is because I hate chase scenes with no character development. So while I enjoyed “Story Engineering,” I have some reservations about how useful structure is if you don't have excellent content and characterization.

I also felt that he short-changed organic writers. Outlining, or preparing a beat sheet is a good idea, but some people do have an intrinsic feel for story and don't do as well preparing everything up front. I think this approach has many valid suggestions for improving craft, but I also think there are other important factors. My suggestion is read the book and take what you can use. It's an experience that will make you think.

I reviewed this book as part of the Thomas Nelson Booksneeze Program.