“The only thing that is ultimately real about your journey is the step that you are taking at this moment. That’s all there ever is.” — Eckhart Tolle
Following on from the last post about writing a novel in 3 months, I thought I’d take a look at something a little bit more specific. Taking a word count of 40,000 as an initial target, we’re looking at 4x 10,000 sections. In 3 act terms this means that act 1 = section 1, act 2 = sections 2+3, act 3 = section 4. I don’t like the 3 act structure, it’s 4 acts plain and simple, with each act corresponding to one of our sections.
I think that over on Storyfix, Larry Brooks has these sections set out quite nicely. Incidentally, after reading his story structure, I made the mistake of trying to break down the works of Conn Iggulden and David Gemmell who have very similar styles and whose structure doesn’t really work for this. Always remember that these are guidelines, not rules. Anyway, back to Larry Brooks. He outlines the 4 sections of story to be: The Setup, The Response, The Attack, The Resolution. These are approximately equal in size, between each section there’s a transition point. All in all, you’re looking at a structure something like this:
TP1, TP2 and MP are the turning points and the mid-point. These are significant events that represent a real change of pace and direction for the story. PP1 and PP2 are pinch points – reminders of the antagonistic force in the story. Just with these elements alone you can (and maybe should) write a very basic 10k kid’s book. Something like Beast Quest or Rainbow Magic.
As a very quick example of how these elements would tie together:
- The Set-up: Bob is a blacksmith’s apprentice. He lives with his step-mum in a village. She’s getting old now, but he still loves her tales about goblins.
- TP1: An old wanderer comes to the village. Bob recognises from her marking’s that she’s a witch. She says a blight is coming, something that adults cannot see, but that will destroy the crops and make everyone starve. It’s up to Bob to save the day.
- The Response: The blight is a spell cast by the great goblin, Gary. Gary’s sending out his goblin minions to plant crystals in sacred groves of power. This helps his blight spell spread. A large group of goblins come towards the village, so Bob has to run from them. Whilst running, he meets a ranger called Rachel (with a pet cat, Cuddle-buns). Rachel knows where the great goblin lives, but she can’t help Bob, not whilst Cuddle-buns is sick.
- PP1: Whilst fleeing from the goblins, Bob would see some sign of how much damage the blight is doing: a great forest sick, for example
- MP: Bob travels with Rachel to his old grandfather’s village. His grandfather was a master healer in his time and, legend has it, healed the wise old dragon Dragonika, back in the day. The village is burning and his grandfather is dying. But when he realises Bob is on a quest he summons the last of his strength to tell Bob how to heal Cuddle-buns.
- The Attack: Bob and Rachel seek out the fabled Bonemendy weed that’s needed to heal Cuddle-Buns. They scuffle with goblins who Rachel fights off – she really wants her cat cured! The Bonemendy weed is guarded by a gryphon. Bob and Rachel scare it off with fire and they find a goblin slaying sword and shield. They heal Cuddle-buns and Rachel leads them deep into goblin territory.
- PP2: The sky glows orange at night, because the blight is burning the land.
- TP2: Bob and Rachel find that the great goblin has tamed dragons to fight by his side. They fight through crowds of goblins and reach a steep mountain pass. The great goblin is at the top and sends his dragons down to attack them. It looks like all is lost, there are too many, but then Bob sees a great queen dragon and challenges it. It flies in close, then stops, recognising his smell. The queen dragon is Dragonika and she refuses to fight Bob and Rachel, remembering what his grandfather did
- The Resolution: With no more obstacles, Bob and Rachel defeat the great goblin. The blight spell is stopped and the land had to heal. Bob has learned that being good in the past can come back to benefit you in the present. He also realises that even when you’ve fixed a problem there’s lots to do: the land needs healing.
A story that works on this level can then be expanded to any size. The complexity increases, but the basics are there.