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What structure (plot and scenes) methods have you tried? (1 Viewer)

Llyralen

Senior Member
I'm watching a "Great Courses" series by James Scott Bell. His structure outline is the first one that's ever caught my attention and made me want to use a method thought up by someone other than myself for my WIP. And it actually works for my WIP. I thought "THERE MIGHT BE A BUNCH OF RECIPES OUT THERE TO LEARN FROM AND I'VE NEVER LEARNED FROM THOSE!" Now, I've never followed a recipe exactly in my entire life, seeing them as too controlling for creativity (yes...my sister called me the "Originality Nazi" growing up-- I swear I've mellowed) but sometimes I learn a bunch of recipes and make my own out of them. I'm not going to stand being told what to do and why someone else's way is the best for me long enough to read a whole How-To book, so hopefully I can find the ideas you mention online, but right now for this window in time I want to hear about what recipes are out there that you guys like!

Yesterday I read about "Save the Cat" which didn't resonate with me yesterday from what I was reading, but I'd love to hear other people's experiences. The Hero's Journey I've studied all my life by reading fairytales and folklore, it's primal-- basically built into the molding of the human brain, and I'm all for Joseph Campbell who tells us to follow our bliss lol. And honestly, that's what I think I liked about James Scott Bell's method is that it seems in common with what works on a gut-level in many stories to engage the reader.

What structure methods have you tried? What was the experience like? I'm open to hearing everyone's thoughts and ways.
 

Ajoy

Senior Member
Honestly, I didn't follow any particular structure model while drafting my novel, but I did have a gut sense of what I needed to happen in my beginning, middle, and end (things like the inciting incident, midpoint turn, and climax). These are basics that became gut instinct through teaching basic writing to kids and from being a reader (who analyzes what I read daily with a writer's eye and again, to teach kids).

After I finished a couple of drafts, I started learning about the well known (adult writer) plot structures that are out there. My work definitely best fits the 3 act structure (which isn't a surprise based on the structure I did have in mind while writing). I also see some Hero's Journey and Save the Cat beats in my novel. It was interesting to look at it backwards like that, and a relief to see I could find the parts described in different structure...made me feel like I didn't miss the mark without realizing. :)
 

Llyralen

Senior Member
@Ajoy thanks for sharing this. I just wanted a video by Matthew Kalil. He said something like "Story is something we've done as humans for millennia, we know what to do, but in hind-sight you can analyze the parts of a story and that's what these structure attempts do. I can analyze mine after I've written the first draft." It looks like we aren't alone.

I think James Scott Bell's analysis got to me because his ideas were synced up to what is actually going on in my story already. lol. So the first time I've thought "Hey, there's something to this to study!" But a lot of people study these kinds of books and don't leave it up to the gut. The gut definitely is hard to access sometimes, the unconscious, which is why I rely on my dreams a lot, I think. It would make it easier to be able to study this consciously, like the Hero's Journey--- and then again, can studying drive me enough to actually finish a book like my subconscious might be able to better because of what it tells me I need to learn? I'm saying I learn a lot from my subconscious and I wish I could learn more, but we humans roll in such interesting ways.
 

Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
Glad you posted this....it got me writing today! I have been struggling to make a dent in Book 2 of my series. The first time around for Book 1, I had the story banging around in my head for so long. Then when I started, I used pencil and paper. I found a framework on google, I don't remember what it was called but it was something like a 7-10 step process. I thought it was just standard, and I could find it forever, so I didn't keep a record, and all my notes are in storage now. But It was something like this:
  1. Write a one-sentence theme.
  2. Select a POV.
  3. Describe your main characters.
  4. Establish their motivations, what do they want?
  5. Set the outcomes.
  6. What are the requirements to achieve outcomes?
  7. What setbacks might they experience?
  8. I'm certain there was something about resolution, but I can't remember.
I know there was more to it and I wish I could find it because it really worked to get the creative juices flowing. I dragged out the old pencil and paper today and tried what I could remember of it. Got me going! From there, I remember the scenes and plot flowed organically. I just went with a gut feeling for when to insert plot beats. I had a look at the ones listed above, and I think it fits best with Hero's Journey. But I can't imagine writing to a rigid structure like that.

I was also thinking of trying the Snowflake method just to get some movement here. Wow...this was so much easier when I didn't know what I was doing...lol!
 

Llyralen

Senior Member
@Taylor I'm very glad of it! Very happy Writing on book 2! I'm glad you could remember those steps for us. What's the Snowflake method? Something I can probably look up...

You know, it got my husband's creative gears turning too. He was sitting at his computer playing a game. He's been complaining of writer's block for a while. I kept having to put pause while he would engage me in discussions of how annoying a prescription in structure is, but the next day he said "I know what my book needs! Your stupid video got me going!" So... yay! yay! yay! I LOVE his book. =) It's been pretty inspiring to me too because I think it builds confidence. Why not explore all the tools out there for our trade to see what is helpful for each story?
 
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VRanger

Staff member
Administrator
I've generally been about Hero's Journey combined with Coming of Age. However, @PiP 's and my Romance is the Heroine's Journey ... not because of having both a MMC and a FMC, and thus a "heroine", but because that trope is an internal struggle with a focus on healing, relationships, and home. That applies to both characters.
 

KatPC

Senior Member
Hi @Llyralen
Structure ... plot ... methods ... Hmm.
Since I have only 1 first draft novel completed, it is hard to say what I have experimented with novels, but with my short stories I change everything all the time!

What structure methods have you tried? What was the experience like? I'm open to hearing everyone's thoughts and ways.
For my novel I started out as every new person does, just write with no clear plan or direction - a pure pantser. This didn't last long as a few months in and writing 30k words the story was going into some weird path into the woods of 'Discard-Land.' I stopped to think what i needed to do. I had a rough idea of what I wanted out of the story and didn't want to fix, plot the path for it to follow. I enjoyed pantsing along even to the point of stopping so I created points to where the story should lead, as was mapped out in my mind.

Writing a novel was tough, so to make it easier I chopped the story into 7 parts, created 7 folders with just the headings.
It was as simple as Intro, Start of Uni, Friendship Developments ... etc etc. The whole point was to create a sketch of where i had to get to, each folder a destination to the next, what chapters i created to fill each folder didn't matter, nor did I care how many chapters there were in each folder - this I felt happily gave me a simple structure to appease my Pantser style and create.

The fun part about this was that it was fun. If I got stuck with say Folder 1 Intro ... and was halfway through Chapter 3 and just grinding to a halt, I simply switched chapters and scenes. If I felt happy to write chemistry between the MCs then I would jump to another folder and write a new chapter, or if I was in a dark mood I would flick to another folder, creating a more solemn piece.

It may sound odd and different but I loved the process. At no point did I ever just stop and stare at the screen struggling ... I had stories all over the place and linking them up near the end wasn't so easy, but the motivation never died as I was a few chapters here and there to completion.

My shorts structures are very different ... not for the organised and plotters.
 
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Llyralen

Senior Member
@KatPC Really whatever gets me through a whole piece will be having something emotionally important to say. =) Maybe something like that helped you? I'm glad it worked out and was an enjoyable, creative and interesting process like it must have been.

I like the idea of being more strategic at this point in my writing craft. I don't do the actual writing enough and I do the dreaming about it much more. Probably a very modest estimate is 10,000 thoughts about my WIP to 1 sentence ratio. Let me be more clear, there is a 12 year thinking and studying to 1 chapter ratio. I need to get more comfortable with the idea of writing and discarding or changing and just otherwise doing more of the actual writing, but man... something about getting to it feels like choosing to do the dishes tonight instead of choosing to spend a week in Disneyland! Why???! It doesn't feel like dishes when I'm actually rolling, then it feels like exactly what I want to do more than almost anything else... usually...
It used to feel more like exploring new worlds and I just do all the exploring in my head first now. I don't know what I need, probably just some adoring fans waiting on my every keystroke like we all need. I will quit whining. I will try to get rolling here tonight.
 
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Lawless

Senior Member
I've never had any idea of any structure methods (apart from having heard that such a thing exists). When I begin to think about it, I dread to have myself shackled to some kind of a Procrustean bed of a structure, chosen from a (presumably) limited set of available structures made up by god knows whom. I can absolutely believe it'll help sell more books, but currently it's hard enough to convert a story in my thoughts into an interesting text, so I see no point adding an additional layer of complexity by asking "will it sell?" on every step. That, and I know pretty clearly what I want to write without needing to think of a structure first. I mean, sometimes it's clear that a story can't be written without following a structure, and sometimes the structure emerges as I write.
 

KatPC

Senior Member
@KatPC Really whatever gets me through a whole piece will be having something emotionally important to say. =) Maybe something like that helped you? I'm glad it worked out and was an enjoyable, creative and interesting process like it must have been.

I like the idea of being more strategic at this point in my writing craft. I don't do the actual writing enough and I do the dreaming about it much more. Probably a very modest estimate is 10,000 thoughts about my WIP to 1 sentence ratio. Let me be more clear, there is a 12 year thinking and studying to 1 chapter ratio. I need to get more comfortable with the idea of writing and discarding or changing and just otherwise doing more of the actual writing, but man... something about getting to it feels like choosing to do the dishes tonight instead of choosing to spend a week in Disneyland! Why???! It doesn't feel like dishes when I'm actually rolling, then it feels like exactly what I want to do more than almost anything else... usually...
It used to feel more like exploring new worlds and I just do all the exploring in my head first now. I don't know what I need, probably just some adoring fans waiting on my every keystroke like we all need. I will quit whining. I will try to get rolling here tonight.
I think a lot in what you wrote here is actually more of a routine. I pantsered my way through and it a pretty mess (hence I joined here to see how to fix things up) but it the process of writing was more to do with having an allocated time to spend on writing. It was really tough at the start and it got worse as I wrote into dead ends, so I made a loose structure and it became a very enjoyable one. The only constant was that I still woke up at the times to write and came back from work to write ... the major difference after the structure changes were that I was looking forward to writing so I have lots of fond memories.

The start is will be hard going. Give it time and you will find your flow and then ... it is a lot of fun.
 

KatPC

Senior Member
I've never had any idea of any structure methods (apart from having heard that such a thing exists). When I begin to think about it, I dread to have myself shackled to some kind of a Procrustean bed of a structure, chosen from a (presumably) limited set of available structures made up by god knows whom. I can absolutely believe it'll help sell more books, but currently it's hard enough to convert a story in my thoughts into an interesting text, so I see no point adding an additional layer of complexity by asking "will it sell?" on every step. That, and I know pretty clearly what I want to write without needing to think of a structure first. I mean, sometimes it's clear that a story can't be written without following a structure, and sometimes the structure emerges as I write.
Hi Lawless,
Don't place so much pressure on yourself to adhere to a fixed way, it maybe right, most important is to get the story down onto the screen. The worst thing is having an idea and for it to stay as an idea. My 'pretty mess' first draft novel can always be changed ... and it will. It will need a full re-write but that doesn't concern me at all ... because the story is already there.
Reading a lot of posts others put up on the workshops (even myself) gives the author eyes for improvement, and changes, if they want, but that begins a discussion where the only intent is to improve the author's story. Kind of like the snowball effect, it can only happen with a story. Believe me when I say I have written a lot of short stories that I think are 'good' or have 'legs' that will never see the day, consigned to awful.
Before looking to sell, look to perfect, to perfect you need to create, to create you need ideas ... you have the latter ... just need to make the first steps towards the end goal.
 

KeganThompson

Staff member
Board Moderator
oh boi...what plotting methods have I tried?
I started with some main ideas on paper then pansted it until it was a mess I didn't know what to do with. Then I watched videos on story structure, 'saved by the cat" and the 3 act seemed to fit me the best. So I worked on some outlines for ideas I didn't end up writing (or only written pieces of) now I am writing and rewriting my ideas/ plot messily in a notebook and have put scenes/ ideas on some flashcards.
I divided my story into 3 parts and have a headline for each "chapter" though idk how long its going to be..
I think I'm one of those weirdos who likes to write, plot and edit all at the same time...i try to refrain from too much editing though since I am new to writing and don't want to overwhelm myself.
I am still experimenting but this seems to be working so far :)
 
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