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Structure in Short and Long Stories

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  • Structure in Short and Long Stories

    The discussion that I started on POV naturally seemed to lead to this one. How do people structure stories, and what structures do people find effective in books that they have read?

    Most people say that a story should have a beginning, a middle and an end, though not necessarily in that order. I find that this is a bit of an over simplification. To tie this into my other thread, how does the POV effect the structure of the story.

    There are traditional and non-traditional structures, they all have their value, I'm not a stickler for traditional forms even though I'm more prone to using them. I'm interested in what people have to say about either traditional or non-traditional forms. Whatever works best for you. I'd be especially intrrested to hear from those of you who have work in Prototype X.

    S. Ombre

  • #2
    As an undisciplined writer, I probably shouldn't be replying... but i can't help myself! *blush*

    I've read so many guides and handbooks etc., on how to write. The strongest advice is to make an outline of your story (beginning, middle, end.) Make the bones and fill it all in. Revise. Polish as needed.

    I tried this and it was my worst enemy. (see? undisciplined!) Once I get an idea, I have learned to just sit down and write it out. When the story becomes complex, sure I'll make some notes on the side. If I need to research something (like navigation) I'll make some more notes. But the point is that I have to let the story tell me what it's doing, straight through to the end.

    Some authors think this is a terrible idea because the story can go off in some other bad direction, etc.

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    • #3
      Actually, many proffessional authors claim to write their novels in the way that you just described Poetgrrl. It doesn't work for me, but it is a legitimate writing strategy. I can't just start writing because I develop severe writer's block and won't be able to make any progress on the story for months. I usually start the process of creating a story long before I write a single word. I'll create detailed descriptions of characters and settings, and I'll outline the story. Part of the reason that i do this is that I don't think linearly, so, often, I'll write scenes near the middle or end first. For me the advantage of creating an outline is that I can place the scenes that I create into the outline and the outline helps me pull the scenes into a complete story. It's the method that works for me, but it would probably drive some people nuts to spend the amount of time that I spend before I start writing. I kind of wish that it was easy for me to just sit down at a keyboard and write a first draft of a story, but for anything over three or four pages, I just can't do it, I get stuck.

      S. Ombre

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      • #4
        oh trust me... my first draft barely gets drafted because i'm so busy revising the revisions... :roll: these things are lucky to see the light of day! :lol:

        i guess that's where the outline is good / useful. it helps folks stay focused. i get writer's block trying to stick to the outline. Remember that car commercial? the droning art teacher telling his class of little ones "Stay between the lines... the lines are your friends..." and the little girl is all grown up in her hot rod shooting down the road passing cars and all? that's me, little miss "just say no to lines." :D

        Hey, you know what? Whatever works! It's just important we keep writing, right?

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        • #5
          I probably shouldn't be contributing to this thread either, because my answer is going to be... The Dent Formula! (Bless it)

          I am a very undisciplined writer, and so I need restrictions to focus my mind. Having a specific word limit, and "conflict quota" for each section means that I have a framework of sorts, but within that framework I'm pretty much just improvising. In the past I've never really thought about "structure" or "pacing" at all, and I'm probably not much better at it now. In terms of the actual story I have a vague idea of the "issue" or subject I want to explore, and how the various characters will represent certain aspects of, or attitudes towards, that subject... but after that I just "busk it".

          Whether this is a particularly good long-term writing strategy, I can't say, having only written six stories, but I think they hold water. :)

          Now, if there were other formulas to try, I might give them a go, but I don't think I could ever write totally stream-of-conscious again, and I worry about the structural demands of a longer piece. But no one's offering me an advance on a novel just yet anyway, so I'm not all that worried.

          By a curious conicidence, while converting a sitcom pilot into a story, I discovered that my average 30 minute comedy script is roughly 6000 words as well, which makes me wonder if you could write an actual Dent sitcom.
          "That which does not kill us, makes us stranger." - Trevor Goodchild

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Poetgrrl
            oh trust me... my first draft barely gets drafted because i'm so busy revising the revisions... :roll: these things are lucky to see the light of day! :lol:
            Drafts never exist with me, I revise as I write. Its slow, but I'm a perfectionists and I think the results speak for themselves

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            • #7
              When I write, I only have drafts to a certain extent because different parts of my story are in different stages of revision. This arises from the fact that I do not write linearly, so the end of my story might be nearer its completion than the begining. I will do some all the way through revisions once I have the entire story at some degree of completion. I do not usually follow a particular formula, not because I think that there is something wrong with formulas, but simply because i do not really know any writing formulas. I have heard many of them mentioned, but I have not had their specifics explained to me. So, in many cases i probably end up re-inventing the wheel when it comes to story structure. I try to look to authors whose writing style i admire to try to find types of structure, but i often do not pull using other people's structures off very well. Maybe it is simply because I have not yet found a suitable structure, or maybe I just like re-inventing the wheel :lol: ....

              S. Ombre

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              • #8
                I am yet another undiciplined writer, so I'm not certain how useful my input could be; but hey, this is a discussion amonst ourselves so I guess our individual approaches are exactly the point of this thread.

                I generally get a rough idea of what I'm going to write and usually have an idea of its approximte length then write it in a way that works best for me depending on length and complexity. For shorter stories I tend to just write them begining to end and do some revision as I write. The vast majority of them are just left as rough drafts, but a few I set out to polish up later. For longer pieces I'll write some background pieces first, just to clarify the story in my own mind. I may do charcter studies/bio's or brief histories; a couple of times I've outlined the stories or written a synopsis of the story as a way to figure out where to put chapter breaks or alter the pacing.

                My most common writing method, though, is to sit down and start writting when I don't even have a story in mind. These are usually identifiable by the characters...I have a handful of "well established" characters that I use as a way to get past writter's block or to explore new ideas or writting styles. Generally these characters are the ones who get used in my "on-the-fly" stories. "Dreamer and the Stone" was one such story. As was the original version of "Rodelkeep." Since I'm re-writing "Rodelkeep" (the version that I started here is the re-write) I have outlined it, chapter by chapter; also, I'm trying Mike's 2000 word chapter method with it. Genrally speaking, when I do the on-the-fly writing I just let the story develop itself and allow the characters to react as they would without any strictures on how it should end. If I like the story or idea enough, then I'll sit down and do a complete re-write from scratch as a way to clean it up and fill it out.

                Basically, I'm a pretty chaotic writer..."ink and paper for my lord, Arioch" anyone?
                "In omnibus requiem quaesivi, et nusquam inveni nisi in angulo cum libro"
                --Thomas a Kempis

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by EverKing
                  "Dreamer and the Stone" was one such story. As was the original version of "Rodelkeep." Since I'm re-writing "Rodelkeep" (the version that I started here is the re-write) I have outlined it, chapter by chapter; also, I'm trying Mike's 2000 word chapter method with it. Genrally speaking, when I do the on-the-fly writing I just let the story develop itself and allow the characters to react as they would without any strictures on how it should end.
                  I have a story that I'm writing and to save myself from the pitfalls that occured in other incomplete stories, I'm writing the sory in 1) a historical setting (world building done :D) , 2) gonna try the 2000 word chap. method, and finally 3) sketch the chap-by-chap, but let the story write it self, or expand from this primitive sketch and see what cultivates.

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