Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Strong Foundations

Foundation: A body or ground on which other parts rest or are overlaid

Whether we're building a home or a novel, if we stack upon a weak foundation, the product will suffer. What makes a strong story foundation? Here's what I've learned:
  • Start with a three act structure
  • Create strong characters who readers will care about
  • Envision a setting that is rich with sensory details
  • In the early stages of Act 1, preferably on the first page, the main character should experience a disturbance to their regular life
  • The transition from Act 1 to Act 2 happens when the MC is thrust into the middle of the story
  • The middle of the story, Act 2, is a series of complications for the MC (I like to create a "make 'em suffer" list for this section)
  • The transition from Act 2 to Act 3 happens when the MC reaches a point of no return
  • Act 3 is the climax and denouement (add a twist!)
  • Revise your story until it's so awesomely amazing that readers will line up around the block to demand a sequel. Well, this one probably doesn't belong, but I like the sound of it.
I realize this is an overly simplified list. What tips can you share for creating a strong story foundation?

photo credit: google images

31 comments:

  1. Wonderful post, Julie. I think you have covered everything. Thanks for sharing this.

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  2. Since I write romance, I always have to keep in mind what is holding the characters back from love. If I forget that, my book suffers!

    Great breakdown!

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  3. A lot of people feel stifled with the 3-act structure but I LOVE it!

    For me, it makes my plotting much easier to manage and gives me a guideline of where my character(s) should be...

    Definitely like twists (although sometimes hard to develop and come up with one, ha).

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  4. Thanks, Julie. You've made plotting so accessible. I love that it's simple. (I need simple.)

    Thank you!!
    Amy

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  5. Excellent advice! I especially love the last point!

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  6. Make sure the pieces make a good building! If you have three (or however many) acts, they all need to be "structurally" sound and all need to fit together. Otherwise, you just have a mess of blocks... :-o

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  7. The list may be simple, but it's accurate and helpful. Thanks for sharing!

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  8. Great list! In fact, just reading it made me think of a rather nasty twist to throw at my mc in my NaNo story!!! :) thanks!

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  9. Great list! Usually simpler means more attainable so I love the fact that it isn't unnecessarily complex!

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  10. I love the part about lining up for the sequel. :D

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  11. Thank you for your clarity, Julie. Must - go - plot - must - avoid- temptation - of -stream - of -consciousness. Beware the dark side of not having a viable plot.

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  12. These are succinct and wonderful advice. I'm definitely bookmarking it and re-reading. Thank you! :)

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  13. A great breakdown of structure. Good to start simple. I like to prop up my middle with a huge twist or revelation right in the middle of Act 2.

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  14. This list is simply, but really effective. I'd add, in relation to your characters, know how they change. Have some idea up front as to where they're heading or what they'll give up, or what events will mean to them.

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  15. sensory details is what I like the most while reading a book.

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  16. Simplified lists are awesome. :o)
    You summarized it well!

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  17. Making background notes about the characters & situations is really helpful.

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  18. Very appreciative of this list, esp. your suggestion for Act 2: Make Em Suffer!

    I am in Act 2 and struggling a bit with the 'muddy middle'. Your suggestion has helped clarify my objective here...now what can I do to make my poor MC suffer? *cackles, rubs hands gleefully*

    Thanks!
    Julie Johnson
    busywriting.net

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  19. Thanks, Julie! Just started Act 2 but it's slow going.

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  20. Yeah! Yeah!! Make 'em suffer list!! He he he

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  21. Oh, I can't forget about the twist. I'm not there yet, but I hope I remember that important detail.
    Stina's post today, about believability, is also part of a good foundation. :)

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  22. Loved how simply stated this was. Looks like a great printout to sit next to the computer . . . hmm, good idea :-)

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  23. I followed (and learned about) this formula several years ago when I tried to write a screenplay. Everything in screenwriting also applies to writing fiction. Your list here is right on!

    I'm re-signing in as a follower because a blogger glitch forced me to export/delete my old blog and do a new one--meaning I have a new address, and a VERY slightly different title. Here I am now, when you surface from NaNo.
    Ann

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  24. THanks for commenting on my post yesterday and for suggesting the book... love getting my hands on more helpful ones and I haven't heard of that one before.
    So a fellow firefighter's wife??? Awesome!! So glad to know that! I believe Beverly Stovall McClure is also.... know her? Anyway .... yes we have to stick together. And Czech last name?? Kindred spirits, indeed. And don't worry, I use that term all the time... I think I got it from Little House on the Prairie ... love that show. Anyway, thanks for this great list! Happy weekend!

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  25. Amen Julie, a powerful post indeed. Can gain something from your reading here. Blessings.

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  26. Great post, Julie! I've used the three act structure and liked it.

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  27. Love love LOVE this, Julie - it's exactly how I think of story structure - the three act. I like to keep it simple in terms of planning, and I plot those main points. If I make it too complicate, I get confused!

    Thanks for this!

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  28. If only that last point were as easy to do as it sounds!

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  29. julie - i love your posts and look forward to reading your thoughtful advice on writing - this one makes me want to return to that manuscript that is gathering dust...... thanks for being so inspiring to all of us!

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