typingYeah, I know. I preach structure like a crazy man on a street corner.

And it’s incredibly important that your story has a clean structure, but like someone once said, structure is the glass into which you pour your wine. At the end of the evening you talk about the wine, not the glass. If you’re talking about the glass, the wine had to be forgettable, and as a writer, the last thing you want to produce is a forgettable story.

Larry Brooks, Syd Field, Blake Snyder and John Truby all talk about structure. The Hero’s Journey is all about structure. All of these (and more) structures all follow a very similar path.

And one day I’ll post a comparative analysis of the many “different” structures espoused and demonstrate how they are all essentially the same. (Teaser: Snyder’s “catalyst” is Brooks’ and Field’s “inciting incident” and Truby’s “inciting event”. All of them have a midpoint that changes the protagonist’s goal, and the third act is proceeded by an apparent defeat.)

But the structure needs to hide under the story. And the story needs to have characters who grow, dialog that sings and, most of all, a premise that makes the reader say “why didn’t I think of that?”.

Learn structure, then forget about it. Once it’s ingrained in your writing it needs to stay in the periphery. Don’t force your inciting incident to be at the 10% or 12% or 8% mark; have it organically occur somewhere in the first 10 – 15% and make it believable.

And if that is organic and believable, then your first plot point (Snyder’s “Break into two” and Truby’s step 9 of his 22 steps – “first revelation and decision: changed desire and motive”) will be organic and believable. It better be, or your readers won’t forgive you – and won’t make it to the midpoint.

The most important part of the story, and the part you as a writer should spend the most mental effort on, is the premise.

Without a compelling premise your perfect structure won’t get read. Or if it does, it won’t be memorable.

Sure, you need a heroic hero and a complex villain and clean, pacey prose, but all of these elements without a compelling premise gets you to 80% at best.

So learn the structure – pick one that resonates with you – and then forget about it. Work on a compelling premise and go from there.

The “me” I believe myself to be is not the “me” you see. Or you, or you.

The way I define myself is informed by my own prejudices. Characteristics I think are important many will dismiss. Characteristics I dismiss, others will find important.

But enough about me.

When you develop your main characters – the protagonist, antagonist, sidekicks and a few of the support squad, bear this in mind.

Externally your hero may appear abrupt, curt and generally a dick.

Internally she may believe that past mistakes require her to act that way, and she sees it as a positive.

He may be laid back and seemingly uncaring from the outside, but inside he’s struggling to stay calm in the face of overwhelming stress because “it’s not manly to break down”.

Or perhaps his musical skills wow everyone he meets, but to him it’s just something he’s done since he was 12. And he was taught from a very young age that pride was sinful.

Use dichotomy in your character development. Have the external (1st dimension) contradict the internal (2nd dimension) and use back story (3rd dimension) to (eventually) explain it. It will make your characters all the more richer for it.

Scribd started out (in 2007) as a way for academics to publish papers. In a very short time it has evolved to an “all you can eat” subscription service for ebooks.

As in, for $8.99 a month you can read as many of the 300,000 books (from 900 different publishers) on Scribd you want. You can read them on you laptop, tablet, iPhone, Android phone – pretty much any electronic device you own. And not just ebooks.

Court filings. Recipes. Instruction manuals. Legal forms. Recipes.

As a reader, this is fantastic.

As a writer, the new channel is exciting. Scribd has 80 million visitors a month, from over 100 countries.

Help spread the word. My books are found here.

typingFor every JK Rowling, John Locke or Michael Connelly there are thousands of writers, like myself, writing books, enjoying writing books, and not making enough money to pay the bills. It’s not because the books aren’t good. Not speaking for myself (because self-aggrandizing ain’t my thing), but there are excellent writers out there, both traditionally and self-published, who need to teach, or freelance write, or do something else, in addition to the writing they (we) love to do to keep food on the table and a roof over their (our) heads.

And that’s fine. It’s a reality that we need to live with. But it’s not a reality we have to like, and – if I’m honest – it’s not a reality I choose to accept as being permanent.

I’m back in the job market (and have some interesting interviews coming up in the next couple of weeks), but I’ll continue to write. (Screenplays are turning out to be a lot more fun than I thought they were.) I’ll be going back to the 4 a.m. to 6 a.m. writing window, at least for the first drafts, but I think I’m more productive then, anyway.

If you are an avid reader I strongly suggest you look at and support authors you haven’t read before. Rowling doesn’t need more money. Use sites like Awesome Indies or Kindle Book Review to pick something in your favourite genre and support a writer who is doing what they love, for pennies a day. (Full disclosure: I do the occasional review on AI).

In the meantime, I need to buy a suit.

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