We all know that a story needs a sound structure. But no one reads a book or goes to a movie to enjoy a good structure. And no author writes because he or she is driven to create a great structure. Rather, audiences and authors come to opposite sides of a story because of their passions – the author driven to express his or hers, and the audience hoping to ignite its own.
What draws us to a story in the first place is our attraction to the subject matter and the style. As an audience, we might be intrigued by the potential applications of a new discovery of science, the exploration of a newly rediscovered ancient city, or the life of a celebrity. We might love a taut mystery, a fulfilling romance, or a chilling horror story.
As authors what inspires us to write a story may be a bit of dialog we heard in a restaurant, a notion for a character, a setting, time period, or a clever twist of plot we’d like to explore. Or, we might have a deep-seated need to express a childhood experience, work out an irrational fear, or make a public statement about a social injustice.
No matter what our attraction as audience or author, our passions trigger our imaginations. So why should an author worry about structure? Because passion rides on structure, and if the structure is flawed or even broken, then the passionate expression from author to audience will fail.
Structure, when created properly, is invisible, serving only as the carrier wave that delivers the passion to the audience. But when structure is flawed, it adds static to the flow of emotion, breaking up and possibly scrambling the passion so badly that the audience does not “hear” the author’s message.
The attempt to ensure a sound structure is an intellectual pursuit. Questions such as “Who is my Protagonist?” “Where should my story begin?” “What happens in Act Two?” or “What is my message?” force an author to turn away from his or her passion and embrace logistics instead.
As a result, authors often becomes mired in the nuts and bolts of storytelling, staring at a blank page not because of a lack of inspiration, but because they can’t figure out how to make their passions make sense.
Worse, the re-writing process is often grueling and frustrating, forcing the author to accept unwanted changes in the flow of emotion for the sake of logic. So what is an author to do? Is there any way out of this dilemma?
Absolutely! In fact, there are quite a number of techniques that can accommodate the demands of structure without hobbling the Muse.
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