Today I welcome the wonderful writer and blogger Yari Garcia onto my blog, who is sharing her advice on story structure. Enjoy 🙂
The term “structure” scares away a lot of new writers. And you really can’t blame them. Structure in art sounds rigid and stifling, and completely uncreative. I used to think that way too.
That is until I gave ‘story structure’ a try, and it changed my productivity in crazy-awesome ways!
Here are some ways that learning about story structure has helped me finish drafts at an incredible speed.
1. It taught me how to tell a story
I suck at telling jokes. Plain and simple. I giggle the entire time. I start too soon and have to go back to the beginning often. I don’t pause for effect when it comes to the punchline—I just blurt it out. I say the entire joke, I just don’t say it properly.
Learning story structure is like learning how to tell a joke for maximum effect.
You might have a great story to tell, but like a badly-told joke, you may simply not know where to put your most important scenes. You may go too fast in some places, and too slow in others. To create tension, to have the maximum emotional impact on your reader, you might just need to know how to tell the story that you have. Story structure helps with that.
2. It taught me that the middle does not need to stagnate
I knew that the climax didn’t go in the middle, because the climax leads to the story resolution. So… what went in the middle of my story? Well, I just shoved a bunch of character and setting development there. Lots and lots of it. It was a lot to slog through.
With a structure, I could ensure that the middle of my story had significance, like a beautiful centerpiece at a dinner table.
The middle is simply way too late in the story to still be developing characters. Now I can look at the center of my story and ask myself “Which important, emotional scene can go here?” Then I find that scene, one that keeps the story moving, and boom! The reader can remain captive halfway through the book.
3. It taught me I had way too much creative freedom
“Structure would stifle my creativity.” I’ve heard that a lot. And it’s somewhat true—I could never start a first draft with a strict story structure. But what I quickly found out is that I had waaaay too much freedom in my drafts.
Without structure, I had a lot of story, but no way to organize it.
I can crank out 150+ pages of a first draft, like throwing puzzle pieces onto a table. But just like a broken puzzle, the pieces don’t always make sense.
Learning story structure allowed me to know what to do with so much story. I could then see which pieces were good, which could be thrown away, and—most of all—how to put it all together to form one cohesive picture.
4. It taught me how to foreshadow!
This one I am super-excited about! Once I had my story organized, with a good beginning, a strong middle, a climax, and an end… I could go back and find the places where heavy and light foreshadowing could take place.
Foreshadowing added a sense of foreboding and hints about the coming scenes in my story.
Foreshadowing was always a mystery to me because I wasn’t sure where to put it to create the maximum emotional impact.
Now, like placing an M&M in front of the other, I can place foreshadowing in my stories to keep my reader moving forward!
Foreshadowing is such a great tool to create tension… but only if you know where to put it.
5. Where did I learn all this?
The book I learned story structure from is Structuring Your Novel Workbook by K.M. Weiland, but there are wonderful books out there, some by your favorite authors, on this topic.
It’s okay to be artsy and wild, but if you find it difficult to read through your drafts, story structure can help.
Once you learn about story structure, you’ll see that your favorite books use the same general story flow.
And that is always exciting! I feel like I learned an insider’s secret. I also feel like I was handed an incredible tool for fixing a lot of my old rambling first drafts.
With a structure, I had specific goals for each part of my story, which made the writing process so much more effective and productive.
I hope you don’t let the word “structure” scare you away, because it can be a very useful tool in storytelling—especially for those of us who can’t even tell a joke :-p
Yari Garcia has a BA in English and Creative Writing with a focus on fiction.
She is a self-published author and poet. Her short story, The Girl in the Converse Shoes, has over 48,000 reviews on iTunes.
She now writes nonfiction and new adult fiction in the beautiful state of Colorado, where she lives.
A Firefighter hero for her
After a crushing breakup, Bonnie Hart is just trying to get her life back on track. At age twenty-eight she is working at the local cafe and saving money for college.
But her life takes an unexpected turn when a series of arsons burn up the small town of Ponybridge, Louisiana, threatening to smoke out all the secrets hidden deep within it. Secrets that Bonnie Hart would rather forget.
When the handsome and kind fire investigator, Brandon Wells, arrives in town, he sweeps Bonnie off her feet.
Brandon isn’t ready for commitment, but he’s determined to figure out who the arsonist is—before somebody gets hurt. Or worse, before somebody gets killed.
In A Firefighter Hero for Her, hearts and lives are on the line. Coming 2019.
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Big thanks to Yari for being today’s guest poster and sharing her advice on story structure. Do please check out her links and if you have any questions, please leave them in the comment section below.
PS: OMG thank you so much to everyone who has entered my newsletter giveaway so far, it was so nice to see so many of you reading the newsletter. The draw will take place on the 29th April with winners announced on the 30th in the next newsletter.
So if you received last month’s newletter and haven’t yet entered, you still have time to do so.