Writing Book of the Month: December
Updated: Dec 31, 2018
"Story Trumps Structure" by Steven James
If November's writing book of the month was a gift for the plotters out there, then December's is for the rest of us.
Just for the record, I've never read any of James' thirty-plus novels. There, I said it. But, I really don't think you have to in order to appreciate the sage wisdom found in Story Trumps Structure.
James is a proponent of writing organically, which sounds a lot better than "writing by the seat of your pants." Essentially, it boils down to the fact that every individual story dictates the number of acts, symbolism, types of characters, etc.—not the other way around.
Good fiction, according to James, is about creating and sustaining tension.
That feeling of being on the edge of your seat as a reader, frantically turning the page, is what makes a story successful. A reader won't care if your "inciting incident" comes on page 126 and not 75, or that your story has—gasp—five acts IF you keep them engaged AND entertained.
Whether you are plotter or a pantser, James offer some very practical tips for resolving conflict, injecting unexpected twists into your story, and making your story wholly original.
Like ALL writing books, the advice is best taken with a grain of salt. Take what resonates with you and discard the rest. And be sure — there are A LOT of excellent take aways in this nearly 300 page tome.
And while Story Trumps Structure may not be the answer to all of your writing problems, I bet James will help you navigate yourself out of a few dead ends and help you find what makes your story unique.
James speaks about the craft around the country and teaches weekend writing intensives if you want to delve deeper.
See you on the other side!