Anyone who has ever talked to me about writing knows that plot as a verb is my idea of a 4 letter word.
For a very long time when I first began writing, I didn't plot ahead. I just let the story unravel as my fingers typed away (or filled pages of notebooks). I still need to do that to some extent because it's how my brain works. I can't figure out a story unless I'm actually telling it.
However, the reality of the publishing world is a bit harsh. My fervent wishes to the contrary, my editor is not going to offer me a contract on an opening chapter followed by the words and then a bunch of things happen and they fall in love and live happily ever after.
So I've had to learn to do some plotting. Let me tell you, it's been a struggle!
But over the years I've learned that whether I choose to acknowledge it or not, stories need structure.
I think of the image of this bridge.
I wouldn't want to drive across that bridge if the engineers who designed it hadn't properly planned the structure. But what does that have to do with story structure?
There are dozens if not hundreds of books out there offering to teach you how to plot your novel. I've read some and skimmed more. I've done workshops (I highly recommend Michael Hauge's The Hero's Two Journeys). Read dozens of articles.
But one book stood out in the way it helped me understand how to structure my stories - James Scott Bell's Super Structure: The Key to Unleashing the Power of Story. This craft book uses 14 signpost scenes to help you plan your story. They have wonderful names like The Care Package, A Kick in the Shins, Pet the Dog - and my favorite - The Mirror Moment. Look at the bridge above. See how it is perfectly symmetrical. In your story, the Mirror Moment is that scene exactly in the middle of the book where the protagonist has to confront himself (as in the mirror) and make a decision. The rest of the book hinges on it.
The book is set up so that each of the 14 signposts has it's own chapter that thoroughly explains its purpose and how to use it.
But there's a deeper reason I love this book.
The blurb on Amazon says:
Super Structure represents over two decades of research on what makes a novel or screenplay entertaining, commercial, original, and irresistible. Contrary to what some may think, structure is not a nasty inhibitor of creativity. Quite the opposite. Properly understood and utilized, structure is what translates story into a form readers are wired to receive it.
I bolded those lines because I think that's what appealed to me.
Bonus: Missy Tippens did an article on another of James Scott Bell's books, one I like to think of as a companion book to SuperStructure. Really this one came first and it focuses completely on the Mirror Moment. You can find Missy's article in the Archives of the original Seekerville. A Look Inside a Writer's Mind - Working from the Middle of a Story.
So what do you think?
Today I'm offering a copy of the ebook version of Super Structure. Be sure to let me know in the comments if you're interested.