Story Engineering by Larry Brooks

I’m reading Story Engineering by Larry Brooks, which makes screenwriting structure available to novelists. It seems most novel writing books don’t teach structure. They teach craft techniques like Voice, Point of View, Show Don’t Tell, Active Verbs, but rarely how to structure a story. Story Engineering is superb for novelists and screenwriters. Have you read this yet?

Larry says: “The reality of good storytelling at this advanced level will turn you into a beat-by-beat story planner sooner or later. The more you recognize the validity of this model, the more drawn you’ll be to putting some planning time into your stories before you write them.”

Do you plan your story or ‘fly by the seat of your pants’ ?

16 comments

  1. I’m reading the exact same book right now! How far along are you?

    Well, I’m a pantser… I tried planning and when my outline was lost I was lost… I prefer the convenience of carrying an extremely basic version of the plot in my mind, so that I can change it at a moment’s notice… In that respect, I guess I’m a planner to the extent of a few sentences but overall? Definitely a pantser…

  2. Hi Mark,

    I’ve been reading your blog for a while now but this is my first comment.

    Thanks for posting about this book. I’m going to see if it available in Australia.

    To answer your question, I’m am a ‘fly by the seat’ writer but only for poetry and short stories as most of my ideas come to me in a rush. But having said this, I’m sure there would be benefits from planning some of my writing ahead of time.

    Thanks again,

    Mark

  3. Hey just checked out your blog today. Good stuff! I am all about structure I am reading ‘How to Make a Good Script Great’ and ‘the art of dramatic writing’ but I am using both for a novel I’m writing. I need to plan and I need to follow the 3 acts.

  4. Before I begin writing now (as opposed to writing, then researching) my characters are fairly well developed, I know the major plot line and subplot lines of my story, and I have completed some of the research. The details emerge as I flesh out the novel and I follow up with more research.

  5. I am a very organized person. When I first started writing, I was very obsessed with wanting to control every aspect of the story. I needed to know what was going on. But, the more I wrote, the less I planned and the more my creative being took control. Now, there is no notes, or structured outlines. I just write. And I have found that it’s just so much more enjoyable and surprising. I am taken on an adventure by my characters. I love it.

  6. I endure the drudgery of creating a detailed outline, which invariably eases the writing along at a respectable pace. I’m careful, however, not to overburden the outline with inflexible detail, leaving myself open to changes as the story progresses. I attended a story-mapping workshop led by a CBC producer and frankly found that many typical screenwriting tactics don’t work well for print.

  7. I’m definitely a planner. I need to have laid that foundation and drawn up that map before I can settle in and get started. If I don’t put together an outline that defines the structure of what I want to write then I find the anxiety I get before starting any writing overwhelms me. That outline is like a security blanket or life jacket. I’ve learned you can’t be married to the outline however because the story isn’t fixed, it grows and changes. The characters shape the final outcome during the writing process. But I’ve definitely found that I need to start with a clear picture of where I want to go and how I’m going to get there.

    A few years ago (wow, 2007, getting on to several years ago) I wrote a jazzy little quiz for writers to help them decide if they are a planner or a pantser. I thought you might get a kick out of it so linked to it directly in my URL above. Enjoy! 🙂

  8. Since reading this book and writing an eight-part series on my blog based on the book, I’m definitely a plotter. No novelist has any reason not to plot. If you pants-it, you are a weak novelist. Planning doesn’t require a report-like layout. Writers can formulate where they want to go, and their goals for their stories, in their heads.

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