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The Need for Structure

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Structure is my biggest problem. Ok, I know I said earlier that endings are my biggest problem, but in a sense, it’s the same thing.

For example, here’s something I did the other day. I thought of an idea for a story. Think of it as sort of cylons-in-a-fantasy world.

Liked the idea. Jotted down some notes. Went to lunch and scarfed down my usual two black bean tacos with guacamole. Brain worked furiously the whole time coming up with more details for a fuller world.

Some part of my mind screamed This could be a novel! Make it happen!

Enjoying it all. This is the fun part of writing, the part that keeps me coming back for more.

After maybe an hour of thinking and jotting down a few ideas, I decided to begin. And I wrote the opening scene of Golem.

Hold on. Wait, you say, smartly spotting my gigantic mistake. You started writing the first draft an hour after the first seed of an idea was planted? Major problem!!

And you are right, gentle reader. You’ve cottoned on to exactly where my biggest weakness is.

I didn’t take time to flesh out a plot or a world or characters or anything. I had the barest germ of an idea.

How can I sit down and begin describing my world, characters, and their problems when I have only the vaguest sketch of them in my mind?


To the rescue comes . . . Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake Design.

It’s helpful.

Here’s what you do.

1). You describe the entire novel in one sentence, preferably 15 words or less.

Two things to note here.

First, Randy suggests you take an hour to do this.

Thank god!

Constantly doubting (as I do) my worth as a writer, creative thinker, and citizen of this planet, I nearly tail-spinned into despair when my first couple attempts at this produced crap. But since I knew he expected me to take an hour at this, I thought – It’s OK! I’m supposed to work at this for a while.

Second, I realized in this process that my germ of an idea — girl-who’s-really-an-animated-rock-creature-who-was-used-to-fool-the-parents-of-the-prophesied-savior-to-come-when-he-was-kidnapped-by-his-enemies-as-a-baby — well that whole germ of an idea describes NOTHING that would happen in the book. All those events take place before the novel even starts. So. I realized that I actually didn’t even have a vaguely sketched outline of where this book was going, just where the characters were coming from.

No wonder plots always bite me in the ass.

So step one has helped me a lot. It’s made me realize that I don’t even know one thing that will happen in the story. Gotta fix that.

The Next step :

2). Expand your 1 sentence into a paragraph, taking another hour.

Considering what a major revelation the first sentence was, well, doing the paragraph summary should be quite a ride!

But you get the idea. Using this method forces you to keep in mind the big picture, since you start by focusing on that, then narrow down to the details. There’s more on his blog but he explains it better and with more flattery than I, so go check it out if you, like me, get stuck with plot.


About cjsand

Writing twisted fiction

2 responses »

  1. Hehe, I’m not a writer, but I’ve found that whenever I do a drawing it never quite comes out the way I first expected it. It’s almost like with every new line, every new color, it takes on a life of its own. I guess what I’m trying to say is, don’t worry too much about structure and direction. There, I’ve probably missed the point again.

    I once knew a guy who wrote completely by tropes. *shudder*

  2. lol completely by tropes? sounds scary –

    I think I need SOME idea where I’m going though – maybe you can draw without that but my writing ends up a tangled mess


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