How is it already time for another progress report?
Okay, so, I haven’t actually gotten much written so far this week. I spent some time doing a full read through now that I’ve stitched together the new and old portions of She’s Got A Way. Made a few more tweaks there, and I’m largely ready to move forward.
Yesterday I took a chill day and read, knocking out my second Kate Perry book. I’m totally geeking out and mapping her formula. In a spreadsheet. Color-coded, because that’s how I roll. It’s weird because it absolutely doesn’t adhere to the 4 act story structure I’m used to, but as a reader, it’s totally working for me. So I’m analyzing it–natch–because I’m a social scientist. It’s really interesting.
The rest of my extra time the last day has been taken up with trying to locate the owners of a sweet older black lab who’s showed up in our neighborhood. We’ve got the local social media chain going and I’ve called all the local vets to get the word out. The temperature is going to PLUMMET tonight, so hopefully we’ll find his parents. If not, well, we’ve got a giant crate and we won’t let him freeze. I’m pretty sure we have some signal beacon shining above our house in a visual range people can’t see that dogs can. The Paw Signal: Alert! All Lost Dogs! These People Will Help You Get Home! Because we do this kind of thing all the time. There are worse superpowers to have.
I actually question whether or not most readers would notice if a story doesn’t follow the 4 act structure. Most people just want to read. It’s going to be mostly other authors who pick that apart, and most of them probably won’t if the story is good. Now, if the story is a hot mess with NO structure, that’s another thing. I love the spreadsheet thing. I use them for all kinds of things, and that’s what the author used in a class called Plotting for Pantsers. (Which was actually…plotting.) I’ll be interested to find out what you discovered about this author’s story structure.
Dogs must just know that big hearts live in your house. Especially hearts that feel for animals. I always hate it when dogs get lost like that. I really hope you find the owners.
They wouldn’t necessarily peg that as the issue, but yeah, they’d probably notice the outcome. Because that’s what’s usually behind a character that falls flat from the beginning because we haven’t learned why we should care about them or what they have to lose (the point of Act 1), and there’s not proper build up or pacing through the remainder of the story. Lack of proper structure usually DOES mean hot mess.
Do you feel like authors who’ve been writing awhile write in the 4 act structure intuitively? The reason I’m asking is that I know some pantsers who have published 40-50 books, and their books don’t seem to have pacing problems. And they’ve always made me care about the characters. Maybe it comes natural to people who read a lot. If the stories you’re reading are structured properly, then maybe you just KNOW how it needs to be done. What do you think?
There should totally be a class on this. Someone who is snarky and fun should conduct this class. Hmm, I think we know someone like that. 😉
Yeah I am already on her about that…
Anyway, yes, I think people who read and watch a lot often internalize proper structure whether they realize it or not. 3 or 4 act structure (3 is exactly the same as 4 except it has one looooooong act 2, whereas in the 4 act, that’s split into 2 parts) is not the ONLY structure, but it tends to be the most commercially viable one, which is why we see it over and over and over again. Some people have a good instinctive sense of that when they start writing. I’d say most don’t without some kind of training (which is why I can confidently say I can often tell when a book has been pantsed vs. plotted). When I learned about structure it was like…having a name suddenly given to this thing I sensed but didn’t entirely understand, and then this kind of blurry thing came into sharp focus and I was like OH. THAT’S TOTALLY WHAT I WAS MISSING. There are a lot of books about it, lots of places to learn it–but most pantsers seem to break into hives at the thought.
I’m getting much better about plotting. 🙂 I think our friend needs to do that class. Her toolkit rocks.
I guess I’ve not paid attention to how many acts there are in a particular book. Something new to look for when I read. 🙂
I am not sure if structure or really good characters and dialog are the key…I find it interesting that you are looking at it with those criteria…good luck
You can have good characters and dialogue and still have a story that’s fundamentally broken. That’s like having a body with no skeleton. Structure is the thing that gives the story shape. You can also have a book with proper structure that’s a total hot mess with crap characters and lousy dialogue. It’s all of a piece. You need good everything.
Did the dog find it’s home? Never really understood structures and things – know if a book doesn’t work so guess deep inside somewhere I understand it