Structure

This month’s focus is Structure.

From the Latin: Structus, Meaning: I had no idea how well it can improve storytelling.

I’ve been messing with wrapping my hands around structure (obligatory cock joke) on and off for a few years now, and it never really set-in. Like, it bounced around, hollowly with all the other shit going on upstairs for a bit, but I never really got it.

K. Three acts. Yup. Yup. Inciting incident. K. Climax. Giggity. K.

Hero’s Journey; Dan Wells 7-point thinggy; Aristotle; 3-act; 4-act; 5-act.

I got that you should have structure, but never why.

Some instructors would point out it’s just the way we’ve told stories, since the dawn of time, since we were must hairy meat-creatures huddled around a fire trying not to shit ourselves every time something growled in the woods. Beginning. Middle. End.

Or: Setup. Confrontation. Resolution.

Michael Hauge’s (a noted screenwriting doctor) explanation seemed the most simple: Emotional impact.

Stories, he says, are all about invoking emotions. We go to the movies, or play story-based games, or read books to have our emotional boner’s tickled. Watch someone kick-ass, and get excited. Watch someone croak and sob our eyes out. Structure is a method that helps enhance that invocation. (Is invocation right? I know it’s a Dungeons and Dragons school of magic… but like… is it correct here? Screw it, we’re going with it.)

That’s why a hero must have greater and greater challenges. That’s why they must fail at the end of act II, so they can be reborn in act III, and why a final push must come before the climax. (eye-roll). It’s all to maximize emotional response.

If you’re a writer, and you’re having trouble wrapping your head around structure, look specifically at Screenplays. Those tight-ass, money-driven megalomaniacs in Hollywood know their shit when it comes to story structure, and it’s easy to apply to novel or short-story writing.

Hague can explain it better than I can, so I’ll leave you with a link to his website.

http://www.storymastery.com/story/screenplay-structure-five-key-turning-points-successful-scripts/

 

Aaaaaaaand, I lied.

Maybe my last post was a teensy-tiny bit dramatic. This much. *spreads fingers. Debates spreading ass-cheeks. Realizes that gap is much bigger.*

I tried to burn the story with fire and piss on the smoldering remains.

Instead, I slept on it. Pondered over it. Masturbated over it. a few times. Then, I woke up one morning and decided to fix it. If I can’t fix it, I shouldn’t be writing, right?

Ulysses helped here. That handy app for iPad. I guess it kind of kick-started my repair process because it helped me break down the story into it’s constituent parts, and delete the fluff. For reference, by separating the story into 4 acts (act 2 split with the midpoint) it helped me see where the big problems were in bite-sized hunks, (This was supposed to be ‘chunks’ but I like this fuck-up better) allowing me to shred 1200 words (out of a 6k story) so that I could see where they story lived. Then, I refined. Changed the name. Changed the theme. Changed the antagonist. Darkened the protagonist. Made a cover. It’s pretty sexy.

What I had, was this thing that was chock full of stuff, but no story. In shredding the meat to the bone, I found the story, and stitched it back up into a beautiful corpse-puppet-thing.

Soon, I’ll release. (Giggidy) For now, a tease:

Goose_cover

 

Cut the cord

“Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.” -Stephen King

There’s a story I published under a pseudonym that I have been writing, editing and rewriting for over 2 years now. Hell, it’s been published for over a year and purchased (quite a few times) and I’m still rewriting.

And it’s time to cut the cord.

Off with you, fucker. I’m onto new things. I hope you float away like the amateur piece of shit you are.

Unpublish. Delete. Fuck off.

Two years.

Forgive me, father, for I have sinned:

It’s been two years since my last blog post.

A week is probably fine. Maybe a month.

But two fucking years? Enough time to create a baby and watch it walk its first steps. Enough time to build a house or master the oboe… and I can’t get a blog post together. Mr. Writerly McWriteface can’t pound out a few thousand words for his feverish fan-base?

Shame. Shame. Shame.

So… Intead of feeling like a heap-pile of festering, lazy shit, I choose delusion.

Reasons I haven’t updated in two years:

  • In that time, I’ve written sixteen novels and had them published. They’ll both be turned into holographic epics next year.
  • I’ve designed and fabricated a new flying wagon, fueled by children’s joy.
  • I’ve started my own porn-production company, focused primarily on space-sex.
  • I’ve been very busy, learning to fly helicopters and base-jumping and becoming a WWE superstar.
  • I can now speak eleven languages, and I’m the best swordfighter on whatever hemisphere I live in.

That’s why I haven’t written a blog in two years. Sorry for the lack of updates, I’ve just been absorbed in all that other super-cool shit.

In short: I’m super busy. So…

See you in another two years.

 

Storium

I’ve been stalking Kickstarter projects for the better part of two years and finally popped my backer cherry, thanks to Storium. To be honest, it’s not that other products haven’t tickled my fancy—I Needed to get into Storium’s panties with my throbbing story-rection as fast as possible, and backing it allowed that. It was a wise decision.

For anyone wondering, Storium is a collaborative storytelling game. BOOM! Taglined. Anyway, at times, it can feel like a table-top RPG or an old MUD game from days of yore and dialup and sad porn. I’m not going to get into minute details, but the structure is great. Fast. Highly customizable. If you can imagine a world, you can play in it or create it. Fantasy. Urban horror. Steampunk. Robot Doctor drama.

For stretch goals, they’ve enlisted a bunch of kick-ass authors (There’s a pun there, and a prize to the person that gets it) to create worlds for people to play in.

I’ll note, it can be word-heavy. That’s to say, it’s a work of literature fiction at heart. Whereas tabletop RPGs can have quick back-and-forths, Storium can have great depth and breadth. If you don’t like reading and writing, it’s not for you.

I’m both narrating and participating in games, and I’ll admit the community has been tits. Seriously. I have yet to meet an asshole in the bunch. I’m sure they exist, but it seems like that type of person would get rooted out and flush pretty fast. Obvious plus!

I think the brains behind Storium have some great ideas to help it transcend what it already is. The Storium for Schools stretch goal is a great marker to that.

Anyway, the kickstarter campaign is over (it was an overwhelming success) and I look forward to continuing to play the beta until the live release. If you love stories, keep an eye out for it. There’s a yearly subscription cost, but it’s going to be a healthy $24/year. You should get $24 in entertainment out of it in your first few days. Hell, you’d pay $60 for a next-gen game that gets old in 10 hours, right? $24… for a year. YEAR. Do it.

Looking forward to seeing what you guys create.

Growth

Not the kind you should see a specialist about.
Not the in-the-pants variety.

When I was a wee lad, (heh.. Wee) I’d help my father and uncle build things. See, my dad would generally bring me to side jobs to make some extra bank, but had nowhere to deposit me. Through necessity, I became his helper—mostly handing him hammers, nails, chisels, sandpaper, pencils.

I had no idea how any of the shit worked. Houses were held together by some form of magic, hidden inside their walls. Electricity obviously came from lightning bolts striking the chimney. Or something.

Plumbing? Anybody’s guess. Angel’s tears, maybe.

The more and more I watched my dad work, the more everything made sense. The bones of the project. I still couldn’t create any of the things he could, but I became able dissect them. If forced into a job, I could reverse-engineer. I could visualize. I could pick out problems in other people’s work.

This led to doing. Early attempts were brutal abortions. Wood and spackle monsters starring in straight-to-DVD movies. Doing (and analyzing) led to doing better. Experimenting led to more improvements. Never saying ‘I can’t do that’ led to being able create things I really didn’t think I could when given the job.

Never say never.
Trial by Fire.
Third cliche’ for punch

I see parallels in writing. Really, I can’t ignore them. Reading other author’s work. Seeing the bones of the project. It’s not enough. You need to break the bones apart and examine the marrow.

Do. Experiment. Fuck up, a lot.

Don’t just stare at a lamp because you enjoy the light, figure out how the chimney absorbs the lightning.

Less is more

I happened to catch”The Longest Day,” on TV yesterday. For those of you that don’t know, it’s a movie from the early sixties about the events of D-day. (Staring The Duke!)

Towards the middle of the movie, there’s this scene. There’s no POV character. No faces or personalities. The camera never zooms in, just pans high overhead, following the action. There’s no dramatic music—only gunfire, bombs and shouting. Just a bunch of unidentifiable bodies, leapfrogging from building to building as dusty explosions blow apart the environment. Bullets kick up dust. People fall down. More people move. Boom. Tap tap tap. Rinse and repeat for a few minutes.

The effect was amazing.

And profound.

Current movies use similar camera techniques, but they add too much fluff. Determined, dirty faces. Orchestrated music. Blur filters. Multi-angled shots where we see the hero slamming into the side of the building, shrapnel spraying from the facade, biting his face. People clutching their wounds—muted screams.

All of that effort for a sub-par experience. It doesn’t show the bedlam and pandemonium of battle. We don’t see the whole picture.

There’s too many distractions.
Too much eye candy.

Strip it all. Show more with less. Take the essentials, murder everything else. Use enough to create a base image and tone, let the viewer/reader fill in the blanks.

Their brain will paint a clearer picture if you stop stabbing your brush into their skull.

Test drive

Blindfolded and speeding, salesman in the trunk, GPS disengaged. Let’s see where this goes.