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Larry Brooks is a wealth of information about writing and his blog Storyfix.com was voted the #1 top blog for writers in 2010. In this fantastic interview, Larry shares how you can use the principles of his new book Story Engineering to effectively structure your novel. (Text and audio below the video)
If you prefer to listen to the interview, you can download the audio => StoryEngineering.mp3
In the video, we discuss:
- How Larry got started by teaching writing. He studied screenwriting and brought those principles to novel writing. In 2000, his first novel was published and 4 have been published since. Storyfix was started to help writers and Larry has built that into a very successful blog.
- “When it comes to storytelling, pain is optional.” Quote from Story Engineering. Larry explains the myth of the tortured artist. It's hard work if you don't know how to do something. For example, you really want to fly an aeroplane but you don't know how to fly it unless you learn. If you sit down to write and only use your experience as a reader, you will struggle hence the torture. That pain is optional because there is a set of physics that can help you write your book. It's highly flexible but once you learn these principles, you can apply them anywhere and every successful story contains them. You don't need some mystical ability to write a novel.
- The 6 core competencies you need to write your story. There are an infinite number of things to know but they can be broken down into six major buckets of skill sets that group together naturally. Four are elements you need to bring to a story: Concept, Character, Theme, Story Structure (or story architecture or plot). Then you have Scene Execution and then Writing Voice. In the book Story Engineering, Larry goes into a lot of detail for each of these competencies so you can understand how they are all used.
- On writing scenes. Larry advocates story planning and discusses that even discovery writers/'pantsers' do plan as they write – or they have to go back and rewrite. People often ask “what's the best writing tip” and it has to do with scene writing. Every scene should be mission driven. It has to achieve something specific. It's not “to show my character's sensitivity” but that's not enough. The scene needs to add something to the progression of the story. Once the aspects are in place, you can optimize the scene but you need to know the mission of the scene so you can write to that. If you read and watch movies, you can find the mission of the scene in the best of them. Don't let the scene drag on and on with no mission.
- Scenes in chapters and points of view. A scene doesn't have to be in one chapter, that's up to the writers. But every time you change time, place or point-of-view you change scenes. You can separate them within a chapter by using white space. Many short chapters is kind of a new expectation in today's commercial fiction. James Patterson writes a lot of short scenes.
- You don't have to restart your whole book if you haven't written this way but it's a very effective method for writing. It definitely benefits you by sticking to these principles if you want to write commercial fiction. You have to know the game like a pro athlete as well as being fit, strong and fast. We are creative athletes and we're playing a game. You have to know the rules.
- On the criticism that rules stop creativity. Great quote from TS Eliot
“When forced to work within a strict framework, the imagination is taxed to its utmost… and will produce its richest ideas. Given total freedom, the work is likely to sprawl.”Do you want to be a professional writer whose work sells? You can write anything you like but if you want to be a pro, you need to play the game. The marketplace dictates principles and you have to accept them if you want to succeed. We can be infinitely creative within these boundaries.
Larry's popular blog for writers is Storyfix.com – a definite must-subscribe for fiction writers.