There are many ways to get started on a good story. Here are two of them:
1: Be gripped by inspiration and allow it to guide your hand.
2: Use existing knowledge of writerly techniques to write and edit your story until it sparkles.
Now, you have little control over the first. Inspiration has a will of its own. Like a haughty cat, it may ignore your most entreating calls.
The second way, however, is yours to summon. You can utilise your knowledge of story structure to get started right away. Sites such as mine, and many others, offer advice for free—for the love of story.
Will this way guarantee a great story? Maybe not. But it will set you on the path of writing a well-structured one.
Learn your craft by adding to your chest of techniques every day. Work hard to be the best you can be and one day you will be.
In rereading Linda Seger’s Advanced Screenwriting, I was reminded of the usefulness of certain practices—in this case, the practice of naming scenes according to their function as a way of staying focused on how each narrative segment performs its task in service of the plot and character.
“A good story can be expressed through a series of well-conceived scenes flowing from a solid story structure.”
Apart from the inciting incident, the two turning points, the midpoint, the climax and the resolution that we all know about, Seger offers several others: the establishing scene, exposition scene, love scene, confrontation scene, pay-off scene, resolution scene, realisation scene, decision scene and action scene. Most stories have an assortment of these. It’s up to you which ones to include in your tale.
Here’s an example of a decision-realisation-action scene cluster:
In the film Big, Josh decides to put money into a vending machine at a carnival in order to become ‘big’. In the next scene he realises that he is ‘big’ and this leads to a series of actions as a response to the complications of being an adult. The overall result is a new situation that sees him working for a toy company as an adult though, inwardly, he remains a child.
In this scene cluster causally linked scenes make for tighter writing. Knowing the type of scene you’re embarking on tells you how to execute it.
In the light of this, I wouldn’t be surprised if that cat, resenting your sudden independence, and secretly craving attention, doesn’t decide to jump into your lap, after all.
Write a good story by utilising your understanding of the differing functions of scene within the context of story structure.
Want to know more about how to pace your scenes? Follow the link to my latest YouTube video!