Sunday, September 12, 2010

Larry Brooks (scattered post)

The problem with opening lines and introductions is that they’re extremely seductive to write. I’ve never had a problem starting a story. But when the story reaches a certain point where it is meant to launch and instead flounders, the writer may find themselves embroiled in many problems.

The main problem for me has been that the trajectory I established does not fit. Does not fit anything: my idea of the story, the appropriate way the story should go, etc. But how do you determine where the story should go? How do you combine that with your great ideas?

I’ve always thought it should be more than running through the dark. I am the writer, after all. Ray Bradbury said “Plot is no more than footprints left in the snow after your characters have run by on their way to incredible destinations. Plot is observed after the fact rather than before. It cannot precede action. That is all Plot should ever be. It is human desire let run, running, and reaching a goal. It cannot be mechanical. It can only be dynamic.”

His ideas are interesting, because they can actually be molded to fit many viewpoints--which is part of the problem. On the one hand, you could look at that paragraph as speaking to the person who despises outlines. They jump up in their seat and make an exclamation of validation when they see “it cannot be mechanical.” But for the person who does outline, the paragraph is simply a metaphor for what they do. First, they follow the footprints of their character and create a map. They allow their character’s desires to determine the outline they make. They do not rely on mechanics; they rely on the dynamic of human emotion.

As you can probably tell, I’m a bit of an outline person. Just a bit. I also read a lot of books on writing, and recently I’ve been reading “Story Structure – Demystified” by Larry Brooks. He has a lot of interesting things to say, this one in reference to my opening paragraph:

“You have to know. You have to study. You have to search for it, see it, recognize the how and why of it. Most writers don’t get to read unpublished works, which means almost everything they see conforms to the principles. It’s seductive, it looks simple, so you think you can do it, too. That the power of your initial idea is enough.”

But he has more to say. He has a structure to give. It is basic only in that it is universal, and that is what makes it powerful. Many structure books are too specific, or frighten you away from using your “silly” ideas. Which, in hindsight, might be why some people don’t like outlines.

Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that I’ve been using this book with success and there are some very interesting things in there that might be helpful even if you don’t enjoy outling. It’s specific, but again, universal. You can recognize the principles he lays down in pretty much any successful book or movie. Unless it’s Twilight :P

“The difference is discipline. Insight. Recognizing the magic, then the honing of skills that allows the magic to become second nature. To become instinct.”


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