My Study of Larry Brook’s “Story Engineering
“How Do You Wield the Powerful “What If?” Question?
The “What if”? Question… A top weapon of an author, huh? I kept looking at it and trying to rephrase it.
I mean, if you are asking a question which will take your story greater, wouldn’t you use something like “What should happen next?” or “Maybe if I…?”
So far, it does not appear to be “among the most powerful tools in all the storytelling process”.
As I wrestled with changing or improving the “What if?” question, my mind began to open. Y’see, when you are asking “What if?” you are not just asking “What if? you are asking “What if?” with certain answers in mind. You have goals for your storytelling and as you think about these goals, you ask “What if?”
One of your goals is to transform a simple idea into a concept. The simple idea rarely has the power to carry a story. But when built into a concept, if the concept is a “high” one; that is, has the proper ingredients, it becomes the platform on which the story unfolds.
Okay, I am new to all this too. I am struggling, but I can see the potential and I want to stick with the idea.
Let’s say the story idea is to have people engineered to satisfy the needs of others. What is the purpose of that? Well, you are thinking Sci-Fi, so what if the one who wishes to have needs met is a farmer on a farming planet? What if he is alone and the owners of the property want him to be focused on his job? What if robots are not considered personal enough, so the company scientists put together embryos in test tubes? As the fetuses develop, most of the main brain is removed so that the resultant being has only the parts of brain needed for use of movement and enough of the main brain to only think on the lowest levels, perhaps just beyond survival needs. What if after such an engineered woman is sent to take care of the man’s daily home chores and to give him a sort of female companionship, that the brain parts which are left begin to take on the powers that a complete brain would have? What if the woman’s bio-mechanics adapted and the “slave” becomes an equal?
Now, all kinds of things are opening in the original idea and it became (or is becoming) a strong concept of your mind. You are conceptionalizing a story line.
So, as you are asking the “What if? question, you have other questions in mind that act as a backdrop. It goes like this.
What can I do to make my story more compelling? What if I add suspense to the scene where Jack is about to kiss Jill for the first time? How can I do that? What if her father steps out on the porch just as they are yielding to the urge? What if he is intimidating to Jack and doesn’t yet feel comfortable with Jack as a possible suitor? But maybe that line of thought is stale and typical.
So, let’s check another avenue. What could come up at such a delicate time which would thwart the magic moment? It would have to be something that would quickly change or replace the lovers’ present feelings. Maybe a frightful event…
Okay, what if a bear appeared out of the woods? Yes, go from a tender scene to an escape scene or a, uhg, horror scene.
What if the woman in the love scene suddenly realizes that she is about to go too far because she has some problem that must be dealt with before she can allow a man to fall in love with her? What can that be? What if it was a terminal illness…? No, that’s been done.
What if she is of a religious faith in which her father had promised her to his business partner’s son while she was just a child?
The “What if’s” keep moving in your direction or goal of making your story concept more compelling, more new, more original, and more wowing, more unique, more bang for your readers.
The “What if” question can be used to open other doors in your story as mentioned in my previous blog entry. One of these doors is to give your story more detail and make it deeper and richer.
Let’s say you decided to go with the bear in your “first kiss” story above. Now you shift your thoughts and focus from making the concept stronger to creating stronger details. Now, you find yourself asking, What if the bear is a huge grizzly bear? What if it roars with an ear shattering blast of sound? Like the T Rex in “Jurassic Park”? What if it has features that would frighten you if it suddenly appeared near you? A thought goes on in your head as you phrase these “What if?” questions. How can I get the most out of this bear? What about other background obstacles or possible aids which can be added to the picture? What if they are very near the entrance of a barn? Being in a rickety barn with a grizzly bear trying to tear its way in could be compelling…
Let’s see if we can open the next door. Larry says the “What if? question can be used to add to the nuances of character and theme.
Although we will get to theme later, what if your story’s theme is date rape? What if being trapped in the barn with a grizzly bear outside leads to the two characters being trapped in a hay loft for safety? What if the closeness of the moment and the helplessness of the situation lead to the man attempting to take unfair advantage of the woman against her will? Ooops, I just made a villain out of a character I was beginning to like. Remember when Larry said you would reach forks in your story in which you must
choose to go one way or the other? This looks suspiciously like such a fork.
I believe we not only touched the theme of the story, but also added to the nuances of one of the characters if we take that fork. In one fell swoop, we changed the man from someone we may have liked to someone we now do not trust.
How do you bring something new to this concept of these lovers’ first kiss? You move deeper into the conceptual realm with a view to make the story less predictable. Use a What if? question to remove all second guessing. What would really surprise my readers? What if Jill slaps Jack a stinging blow and suddenly he awakes to the fact that he is about to take advantage of her? What if his shame and hurt suddenly makes him withdraw and he runs out of the barn into the cross hairs of the angry bear? What if Jill begins to confuse her close call with remorse that she may have caused Jack to get hurt or killed?
Would the reader be expecting this turn of events to take place? Larry talked about not using deception or trickery on your readers. He also warned about manipulating your readers. Your story must have credibility, meaning, and value. The characters are going through a journey. You have to ask yourself if a way you choose to go is removing expectations or is it using a gimmick. In the above case, to me it looks like good stuff and not at all gimmicky.
Perhaps the journey for Jack is to realize that he needs to take control of his actions and not let his feeling take over his better judgment. Perhaps Jill realizes that she is able to make a stand against unwanted advances; that she has the inner strength to do all she can to protect herself. That does not excuse Jack’s actions, but right now we are focusing in on Jill’s journey.
Okay, you have the “perhaps” thoughts, now you can use the “What if?” questions to propose various actions.
Good luck to you as you ponder through this. I am going to give this new tool a workout. My ears always perk up when someone suggests a most powerful new tool! Will this move me to a higher writing level? Y’know, make my “capacity for wisdom” pot grow to the next level…
We shall see!
My Study of Larry Brook’s “Story Engineering”
What Inspired the Novel You Want to Write?
Larry Brooks, in his book “Story Engineering”, says that there are six core competencies you need in order to write.
The first one is Concept, which is an idea grown up. Your initial idea may be a concept, but chances are, it is not. The idea is usually only the seed from which a concept springs. I will explain that a bit more as we go along.
But, let’s examine your idea first, before we see if it can grow into a concept. That is, if it is not already a concept.
Usually, your idea comes to you as you enjoy the genre you love. I love Sci-Fi, so I can see myself writing a story that occurs within a different place and time. I also love action, adventure, and romance, though what I call romance and what the industry calls romance may be two different things.
My idea of romance is not the classic Harlequin story; but rather, man meets woman. Or woman meets man. From this, difficulties and obstacles arise, but love wins out in the end.
I grew up on the old Western paperback novel. I read tons of them.
I loved Rudyard Kipling because my aunt gave me a book of his short stories when I was in the 9th grade and I have read it cover to cover often.
So, I have these ideas for novels.
First, I want to write a historic-fiction novel set in South West England about a knight and a Anne McCaffrey styled dragon.
Second, I want to write a historic-fiction novel about a Scythian falling in love with a Chaldean princess.
Third, I want to write a Sci-Fi story about the captain of a space ship who has been sent to pursue some space pirates.
Forth, I want to write a novel about a young man who is determined to play professional baseball. I don’t know what this genre is unless it is “feel good”, but it may have come to me because I am into inspirational books.
Fifth, I want to write a novel about a young man and a young woman who find themselves escaping from dinosaurs.
At any rate, I find Larry’s thought on ideas a little simplistic. For instance, he says that an idea could be “to write a novel about raising an old ship from the bottom of the ocean”. This idea grows towards being a concept when the novelist determines not to raise just any old ship, but the Titanic. Well, I don’t think that is how the novel about raising the Titanic came about. Clive Custer probably had the idea about raising the Titanic at the get go. But, perhaps Larry is only trying to demonstrate the growth of an idea.
You can already see the difficulty of expanding such an idea into a book. Let’s take raising a ship from the ocean floor. Right away, you know it needs to be more specific. You are not just raising a ship from the ocean. There is a reason you are raising the ship.
Perhaps it is a Spanish Galleon which perhaps means that a treasure is on board.
Perhaps it is a sunken Civil War vessel or an eighteenth century merchant ship.
But even being specific and having a vessel worthwhile to read about is not enough. If you wrote a book on raising any of these ships from the ocean floor, it would sound like a documentary.
You grow your idea into a concept when you take an idea like raising a Spanish Galleon from the ocean floor and add “because there is a treasure within it. While you are attempting to do so, there are those who do not want you to succeed and will kill if necessary to make sure you don’t either get the money or raise the ship”.
Now, let’s add Larry’s question form of building your idea into a concept.
Let’s take the “raise a ship” idea. What if the ship is the Titanic? What if secrets were sunk with it and certain forces would kill to keep those secrets concealed?
Larry says such building of an idea into a concept becomes a snapshot of your story. In the end, the questions asked suggest an answer and Larry says that answer is your story.
An idea is always the subset of a concept. A concept is the subset of a premise. A premise comes about when a character is added to a concept.
The concept is the stage upon which the story is built; from which the story can unfold. You can write a linear flow of episodic narratives, but it will fail. You need a concept from which your scenes will flow.
The first criteria for concept are to make sure it is not just a simple idea and ensure it is not a theme (which is another core competency to be covered later).
To put it simply, a concept is about the plot of the story; while a theme is what the story means.
Your theme: What does your story make you think about or how does it make you feel?
The more specific, compelling, and original your concept is, the better it will be.
Let me do my dinosaur novel idea. What if dinosaurs have been transported to the future (the present time) due to some worm hole activity in the past? What if these dinosaurs inhabited a wilderness region in the United States so that the general public and civil leaders did not know about them? What if these dinosaurs began to threaten a back woods town which has lost its ability to contact the rest of the world? What if the town’s people have to figure out ways to defend themselves, to warn the rest of the world, and to capture or kill the flesh eating ones?
Hmmm, I wonder if I have a strong enough concept to make a story. Larry says that the concept must naturally align with a journey for great characters and must deliver a thematic punch along the way. A thematic punch means it must make the readers resonate with their own humanity.
Larry says that the “What if…” question is your greatest tool for expanding your idea into a concept and your concept into a story. One What If leads to another and that one to yet another. These can grow into a string of What if questions that begins to expand and define the story itself. You can use them for exploring and deciding each of your story’s milestones. Take them further and they can even determine each and every scene.
The What if questions can move up to higher conceptual ground; that is, adding onto the original idea to make the concept more compelling
The What if questions can move forward; that is, put more details into your story.
The What if questions can move deeper; that is, add to the nuances of character and theme.
Once again, Larry points out that the What if questions are among the most powerful tools in all of the storytelling process.
As you use your What if tool, you may find some answers moving in a direction that contradicts other areas of the story and you may find yourself having to decide which fork of the road you want your story to take. You may find that one fork will have you discarding other options you came up with.
You should take the time to use the What if process to develop and evolve a compelling concept and continue to use the What if process to explore and enrich it.
As you apply the What if process, you may find that your idea will not lead to a story. Better to find out now than to find out after you have written an entire draft.
Things to do.
First, if you have already outlined your novel or have written your story, write a “What if” question for each story point, including the inciting incident.
Note: An inciting incident is an essential plot element in a work of fiction, where an event is struck upon the protagonist(s) where their life changes from the norm to adapt to the story’s plot. It could be as simple as meeting someone new in a romantic comedy, or as complicated as witnessing a murder. Although it is often debatable to what the inciting incident in a particular story actually is, it is incredibly important to the plot.
Second, check over your concept for a novel a week after you conceived it. If you have an idea from a long time ago, examine it now. What you are checking for is “Are you still as excited about it as you were in the beginning?
Third, write as many What if questions as you can, beginning with your original concept.
My Study of Larry Brook’s “Story Engineering”
Who Are You As A Writer?
As I read through Part Two “The First Competency – Concept” of Larry Brooks’ “Story Engineering”… Well, as I struggled through, once, twice, and then put it all together on my third read of the first two chapters… I then felt I had enough understanding to move to the last chapter in Part Two.
But, hold on! The third chapter in “The First Competency – Concept” went in an entirely new and refreshingly direction. “Who are you as a writer?” is the one of the leading topics! Wow! So, before I share what I gleaned from the competency called concept, I want to share the gems I found in this chapter three.
Now, this third chapter does tie in with concept, but it has to do with you and your ideas which become your concepts.
Who are you as a writer?
Likely, you have as much talent and ability as any other writer, but how do you use your talents and abilities? Two artists who use the same techniques and share the same talents will find themselves on two different paths.
One artist looks out and sees what is selling. Instead of letting loose the fire and passion within him/her; he/she learns to duplicate that which gets the most bucks. This one sells out the possible Rembrandt inside himself to paint the commercial beach scene, forest scene, or whatever landscape seems to be adorning the living room wall of the generic home.
The other artist has a passion to paint his/her own work; to place his/her name on that which is unique to him/her.
I can just see the one artist lining up a dozen canvases and then painting the same tree and the same grassy meadow on each. Mass production art, skillfully manufactured, but copied and the same. What a waste.
The other, fire on the canvas, but not quite right for him/her. Tossed aside are many trial works, but then, one work is kept. It stands out and it is not a commercial copy, but a true manifestation of the mind of the artist!
Do you, as a writer, look at what seems to be selling best; and then, attempt to duplicate that? Do you take a popular novel and outline it, then draw up a story using that outline but change the names and the specifics? In other words, do you make a template of what someone else has done and change it so that it is a different story which uses someone else’s structure and even voice? If you do, in my opinion, you are a hack instead of an artist.
If you understand your desire, your motive, in composing that which you are creating; you will find the right conceptual choices.
One way to find out what you would really love to write is to look at what you love to read. You will find the kind of book that allows you to surface and touch others.
Even then, you may rehearse with someone else’s voice or outline; but when you go to write your own, you need to find your voice and pursue your outline.
You can use a “cookie cutter” to write a “cookie cutter” book by letting another author do the work for you; or you can step out using your own talent and abilities to create your work.
When you do, will your concept, which you build from your own idea, sell? You won’t know until you try it, but try it you must!
The dumpsters full of rejected manuscripts, that comprise the body of work that failed, are probably, according to Larry Brooks, those which use an adequate execution of a mediocre idea. The authors chose wrong or missed something. They were probably trying to play the market, to be commercial, or to fit in.
They would have been better to write from a place of passion and vision.
Can’t you see that if you “become some other author” as you write, you mask your own passion and vision? You fail to take advantage of your own fire that is within you.
Write from your heart and from your goal. Be you, the writer.
A forced and contrived concept for your novel is bland and not compelling. The best you can do is to choose the right story for you and for the right reasons.
Digest this bit of advice from the book “Story Engineering”.
Will any story do as long as you get to use your skills as a story teller? Or is there a burning need deep within you to explore and express something specific? A big difference. A career-defining difference!
Elevate your imagination! Let your preferred genre be your guide and then use your mind to come up with that new and compelling concept from which you will launch your novel.
My Study of Larry Brook’s “Story Engineering”
Analogies for Writing
Larry Brooks used a number of analogies as he explained the skill of writing of a novel in his book “Story Engineering. I enjoyed them, but I began to think about the different ones he used.
One was golfing. Of the varying analogies, this one would be the best, in my opinion, to lay out movement in a story. 18 holes of golf would be like 18 chapters of the book. True, each hole is separate; that is, you ‘could’ play them in any order (rules require playing in order, but one does not build on the other) as long as all are played. However, the variety is present. Some holes are at the end of right or left dog legs. Several are over 500 yards long on a regulation golf course. Likely you will find at least three par 3 holes. Different clubs are used for different distances, terrains, and/or hazards. Some fairways are bounded by trees while others may have steams or ponds to avoid or cross over.
Larry did not use this analogy, but anyone who has played video games such as “Zelda” knows that you have to obtain certain tools or instruments in order to go to the next level of the game. Only after you have beaten every level can you move on to the ultimate battle and thus win the game. In professional boxing, you have to win matches with different levels of boxers before you get to fight the current holder of the belt and thus get a chance to became the heavy weight (or whatever category you fight in) champion. Unlike golf, this analogy has each level (hole) in a special order which builds on the previous level. Thus the layout of a novel in which the main character is introduced and the readers are hooked in the beginning, after which plot points and such come in a specific order.
I believe the main feature of golf that compares to your novel is that you try to get to each hole by the shortest route. Accuracy, distance per stroke, and the challenge to use as few strokes per hole as possible are all good writing goals. The story must stay on track and move along from one scene to the next. The first play on a hole (or chapter) is the Tee Off, which is the first scene. For a Par 4 or 5 hole, you will likely get the best results from a driver. Unless you can hit with the pros, the next club you will likely need on a Par 5 is a fairway wood, and then an iron to get on the green. A Par 4 will likely only require an iron to get on the green. Based on the distance, Par 3 holes will likely require a certain type iron to hit the ball straight onto the green. Once on the green, you switch to your putter to hole the ball. However, wayward shots before the green could require the use of various clubs and ingenuity to get a ball out of the woods or a sand wedge to get the ball out of a sand trap.
The next analogy I wish to look at is the recipe. Ingredients are blended and perhaps cooked together. This analogy is perfect, in my point of view, for showing that “show and tell” is just one device among many. All the devices used in a particular story need to work together to make a story. Yes, the scenes are still present. Have you ever come to the point where you have to quickly throw the minced garlic onto the almost done sauté onions, only to realize you haven’t pressed the garlic yet. It normally would not take you long to do so, but you were not ready and now you are searching for a garlic press before the onions burn! Anyway, once you get the burners on, you find that you needed to have some ingredients prepared ahead of time. If you are not ready, some of your scenes are going to be messed up. So, there is an order in which to do things. In the end, you will have a finished dish which could be compared to the end of a chapter. Still, I like golf to explain structure and recipes to explain the use of literary parts.
Larry Brooks uses surgery as a third analogy. Not so much blending, especially brain surgery! And there is a beginning and ending. Scenes are present. Have to wheel the patient in, have to use the anesthesia, have to prep the patient, have to perform the operation, have to sew up, clean up, and observe the patient. This, for me, is the best part of the surgical analogy, that is, the order of the structure is very visible. In my opinion, the second best part of the surgical analogy is the suspense because every little movement or action could be life threatening. A nick with a scalpel, a newly discovered ruptured artery, or an unexpected loss of heartbeat are all moments of excitement and adventure. A lot of serious drama going on here. Lost strokes in a golf game could mean losing a tournament; the slip of a scalpel could mean losing a life. The other part to the surgical analogy is the knowledge the doctor and nurses have to have beforehand.
It is a little late to thumb through a medical picture to find the best place to make a surgical cut. The doctor has to know his stuff and has to work with precision. Though an author does have time to study over “how to hook a reader”, hopefully after the first or second novel, the author will have the basics down and be able to move on with his/her stories. Well, reading a few helps is good while writing, but to have to study a pile of books while writing may not be the smoothest process or make for the smoothest reading.
Ha! I am remembering those movies/TV shows where the pilot is busy reading how to land the plane while landing the plane! 😀
Another interesting analogy of novel writing is that of a story to a human body. Complete systems are housed and have to work together to enable the body to stay alive and well. The respiratory system must bring oxygen to the blood stream so that the cells can function. The blood must take the carbon dioxide from the cells to the lungs so it can be exhaled. Though the respiratory system is separate from the circulatory system, they still operate together and they need each other to live. The nervous system must operate to keep body functions in order. Even the skin plays a vital part. In a story, the character, plot, setting, structure, and all other parts are vital to the story. While the recipe shows blending, the human body shows complete complex systems working together so that the body can live.
My Study of Larry Brook’s “Story Engineering”
Writing Efficiently and Effectively
Joe decided he wanted to be a pro golfer. That should be pretty easy. Go out and buy a set of the latest and best clubs, a bag to carry them in, some golf tees, a rules and regulations book, and some of the latest ‘tour’ golf balls.
Joe then heads out to the nearest golf course, gets a tee time and a cart, and presto…, he is in business. Well, sort of…
Only, there is a way to grip the club shaft, a way to line up the body with the ball, and a way to swing.
Now, Joe could invent a new way to hit the ball, but the proven method presently used by golfers evolved over time. Watch a golf tournament and you will find announcers talking about the world ranked leaders’ perfect form or ability to strike the ball just so.
Remember “The Karate Kid” movie? Mr. Miyagi enters the room in one scene and Danielson has a DIY Karate book in front of him while he goes through some steps.
Mr. Miyagi shakes his head and says, “Karate from a book?” in a disbelieving fashion.
While a wannabee golfer may learn a lot from books, a potential golfer needs to get together with a friend who plays golf to learn the skill based upon the book knowledge. Even after that, the professionals of the game recommend that every golfer take some golf lessons from a pro at some point as he/she learns how to play golf.
When I was in a Navy School to learn electronics, I had to go through a basic course. There I learned about electrons, atomic theory, and such. Then, I had to learn about the components, like resistors, capacitors, and inductors. I learned about physics concerning electronics which is expressed in such units as volts, current, and resistance.
Once I learned the basics, I had to learn how to put the components together to make voltage dividers, oscillators, multivibrators, amplifiers, and such.
Then, in a school on individual sonar sets, fathometers, and such, I had to learn how these basic circuits are tied to together to make up the transmitter, the receiver, and the display networks.
I had to work through what I learned in labs because the knowledge is great, but the skills of troubleshooting and repairing problems come from doing.
While learning to write, I had to learn spelling, grammar, and such. I had to learn how to write sentences, paragraphs, and essays. Then, I had to learn about such parts as characters, setting, plot, and such. Show – not tell, viewpoint, dialogue, and such were another set of elements. Then, I have to learn to put these together to form a story.
Larry Brooks, in his “Story Engineering” says if a wannabee writer sits down with pen (or keyboard) against a blank sheet of paper and tries to bang out a story, the effort will be inefficient, ineffective and time consuming. He claims that if we follow certain competencies, we should be able to use our idea to write a book in eight or so weeks.
The book you write, though using the same competencies other authors use, will be very different from their books; just as two eyes, a nose, a mouth, ears, eyebrows, and facial shape produces millions of faces that are distinctly different. In other words, we are dealing with a format and not the subject material. Though we learn to follow a basic format, the material manipulated by the format will vary in length and in presentation.
All books written use writing principles such as “show” or “tell” in appropriate places, has a climax, has falling action after the climax, is written from points of view, and use a number of other writing skills and yet, you know how different the books, that you have read, are.
Anyway, Larry has my attention. Does he have yours? In the next blogs, I wish check out his core competencies and learn more.
My Study of Larry Brook’s “Story Engineering”
I have added a new book to my “Writing” library. It is “Story Engineering” by Larry Brooks. I bought it at Amazon.com at a very reasonable price.
It looks very promising and one I want to look through before I write my 90 day novel. So, though I was about to begin writing the novel, I am going to step back.
Larry Brooks says we writers should use six competencies when putting together a novel. I wrote down the number of pages he uses to talk about each competency and, using the total number of pages in the book (278), I figured the percentage he spent on each one in “Story Engineering”.
Concept (8%) – An idea evolved to a point where a story becomes plausible.
Character (23%) – which includes all the elements needed to flesh out your character.
Theme (5%) – What your story means.
Story Structure (34%) – Your story has to be built piece by piece.
Scene Execution (6%) – The story is the sum of many scenes.
Writing Voice (4%) – Professional and not overdone. “Less is more – but more than writing a phone book.
(Remainder of book is intro, brief explanation, and development process. (20%)
These are rough percentages, but Larry spends most of his time on Story Structure and Character.
I was fascinated by the title of Larry Brook’s book, “Story Engineering”. I read all the blurbs by those who recommended the book and eagerly began a study to help me write my book.
Let me say up front, though it will take away from the early points I will make as I began to form my opinion, that I found the book to be everything it was advertised to be. In fact, it changed the way I looked at writing my book! Larry totally moved me in a new direction and a new line of thought.
Originally, the following is my second blog entry in a progressive series of blog entries on “Story Engineering”. My title?
Larry Brook’s “Story Engineering” Annoying Introductions
Larry sports two introductions in his book “Story Engineering”; an introduction to his book and an introduction to the six competencies he puts forth in his book. But, annoying thing number one, he writes like a salesman trying to sell his book in both introductions.
Larry, I have already bought the book! I am reading it. Instead of trying to sell the book, you need to move on to the next point. The titles of the subtopics within the first introduction and the titles of the chapters and their subtopics all seem to point the right direction, but the rhetoric takes the reader back to thinking about “why I need to buy this book”.
Okay, watch this. In the book introduction, Larry starts out by showing that his book on writing is essential while other writing books are not. His argument? Their books center on how to master writing techniques rather than mastering how to lay out or engineer your novel. The point is well taken, but is pretty much said in my one sentence. He belabors the point for 28 painfully redundant pages!
The book introduction’s first subtopic tells once again that most other writing books are driven for aesthetics; that is, pleasing to the artistic senses. He states that they tell you such things as “your story needs heart” but do not tell you how to get heart into your story.
Once again, we find “Buy my book because the other writing books do such and such, but my book tells you how to write your novel”.
The book introduction subtopic two is “the other writing books’ way of writing is insane”. They teach you to write by the seat of your pants; my book tells you how to lay out your novel.
Larry! I have already bought the book. I really don’t need to be convinced again that laying out the novel is an idea worth considering.
The next subtopic; How you write is totally your call. However, he immediately follows this with “But if you don’t use the principles put forth in this book, you will not be published. Once again, buy this book or you will not be published.
The next subtopic; Screenwriters use the principles laid forth in this book.
The next subtopic; Why this book? Yeah, Larry, why don’t you tell us yet again?! Thumping my head against the wall… Good Night! This is like watching those TV documentaries where after each break for commercial they have to retell the story told before they throw you another bone!
Next subtopic; I loathe formulaic writing as much as the next guy. Aha, something new. But why this subtopic? Because laying out a book looks more like those “follow the dot” pictures rather than creative writing.
Okay, let’s just put it right out there. How many of you believe that outlining your story, before you write it, kills your creativity? How many of you believe that outlining your story before you write it is one of the best things you can do? There is no real right answer. Some of us are outliners and some of us are not. Let me state that more emphatically. Some of us believe outlining is the only way to get it all together. Some of us believe that outlining will destroy all creativity.
Me? I am an outliner. I am a follower of Sarah Domet and other writers who look at writing from both a creative and a scholastic endeavor. I know of some great website writers who do not hold to outlining. They are followers of such book writing gurus as Alan Watts.
Are you a NaNoWriMo writer? Then you are probably not an outliner. Once again, so what! Most of us know NaNoWriMo writers who wrote and sold their books with success.
The subtopic about loathing formulaic writing is another phrase for saying that outlining does not kill creativity. In fact, I would say that outlining and using a story format will allow you to show off your creativity. Larry will state that while there is a way to define the structure needed for a novel, there is no way to define each one’s muse and how they should wield that muse.
In the last three book introduction subtopics, we find Larry once again selling his book. His model is the right one and you need to park your doubts and let him show you his approach.
Okay, are you ready to read the book and use the six competencies? Wait! Not so fast! Now we find the introduction to the six competencies and why you should care.
Seriously? You’ve got to be kidding! Part one, chapter one. The power of a fresh storytelling model.
Larry, I bought the book. I am convinced that I need to try out your six competencies. Why are you trying to sell me on the book and your approach again?
Okay, but you do throw out another bone. Stories are like meals made from various ingredients stirred and blended together best by following a recipe.
The next subtopic in this part one chapter one introduction of the six competencies? The Physics of storytelling. No bone here. We are back to “why buy this book?” and why you have to use the six competencies.
Okay, I am moving on because I tire of giving the redundant coverage which describes the last subtopics of Part one, chapter one.
Moving on to Part one, Chapter two, which is still in the introduction of the six competencies. Aaacckkk! Second sentence; “you may be wondering why it’s taking so long to announce what they are.”
Yeah! Tell me!
“Well, you are a child visiting the cockpit of an airplane. The tools hold little meaning until you understand their inherent value…”
Wha-a-a! I just spent 14 pages being teased about the six competencies and their inherent values.
Okay, let’s see what you want to tell me here, Larry.
Part 2, subtopic two:
…the story is a living, breathing thing. Stories have many moods. Stories have personalities. Stories have parts that are equivalent to a human’s heart or lungs or other vital organs; lose any one and the story is dead. Some stories are slow paced and others move quickly.
Okay, good points!
Now we move to another thing about stories. Your story competes with other stories for publishing. Therefore, you have to write like a pro and pros use… well, they don’t all know it, but… the six competencies of this book are the professional bench marks.
The next subtopics? Back to selling the six competencies!
Then, the last subtopic of Part one, chapter two; we find that the six core competencies are broken down into two categories.
First, the four basic elements of a story.
Second, the two narrative skills required to effectively implement them.
Okay, Part one chapter three and chapter four. I won’t rehash these because, even though they do a little building, they mainly try to sell you on the six competencies. Which you already plan to try out because you have somehow managed to read through these twenty eight pages of hype!
All the above was annoying thing number one.
Annoying thing number two for me!
Larry keeps hammering away at Stephen King. He blasts King’s book on how to write; but he heaps praise on King as a writer. How to explain this dichotomy?
Well, according to Larry, King instinctively uses the six core competencies, but his books on how to write does not teach potential writers how to write. Let’s count the times Larry brazenly throws King under the bus. Page one, page two, page three, (page 8 is praise for King), page 14, (page 22 seems to be favorable to King), and page 26.
Larry is really ticked, according to what he writes, at the famous authors who use their lofty standings to sell “How to Write” books which they have written. These books, according to Larry, only have bits of truths in them at best and are a tool to make money off the names of the famous.
It would be interesting to read what these authors think of Larry! 😀
But, so far, the theme of Larry’s book is these.
My book is better than theirs because…
Their books are no good because…
All other successful authors use the ideas in my book whether they know it or not.
Annoying thing number three is the number of illustrations used to sell the same point, which is, of course, buy my book and use my six competencies.
The golfer who wishes to become pro learns to play using techniques already developed rather than just grabbing a club and hitting the ball. Therefore, writers need to use present writing techniques rather than try to invent their own way of putting a story together. Buildings are built using blueprints drawn up by architects; therefore, books should be put together using a blueprint equivalent.
The seasoned surgeon who no longer needs “Gray’s Anatomy” (the book not the movie) to slice into an abdomen to remove a ruptured appendix. Therefore, writers who have written become adept at how to put together novels.
A master chef makes meals using recipes; therefore your book needs the equivalent of a recipe to blend its ingredients together in the proper proportions.
Then it is back to the architect, engineer, and blueprint.
Back to the golf pro.
The surgeon with no training.
The master chef making eggs Benedict.
The illustrations themselves are very good and enlightening. However, when used to sell me on what I am already pursuing, they become tiring to read.
Teacher, I get it! I got it an hour ago! Please! Let’s move on!
Okay, I hate to just point out the bad. I agree with so much that is here. But, if you read the book, stand by for some laborious reading.