I recently read Story Engineering: Character Development, Story Concept, Scene Construction By Larry Brooks.
A great book and full of very clear ideas about how to construct a story. Larry Brooks doesn’t try and reinvent the wheel or put a new spin on how to construct a novel. What he does do is makes a subject that is often problematic and confusing for authors, at all levels, simple and clear to understand.
The idea that we should trust our instincts to write and work on something that is constantly in danger of going off the tracks or turning into a pile of notes and chapters that make no sense to the us, is a daft undertaking. Larry Brooks proves this in his book and simply and logically explains and shows us how and why an author should plan first and use detailed outlines to ensure that the story is told in the most satisfying way possible.
Get it and read it and you’ll see why I’m convinced that Larry Brooks has written an honest down to earth and very useful book that every author should own and use as a guide and reference book during their work.
He’s right when he points out that a “seat of your pants” author is doing just what he, Larry Brooks, is suggesting to do, but he or she isn’t planning on doing it, they are using the SWAG method of arriving at the same point as authors who plan a story first. (SWAG – Silly Wild Assed Guess).
When I was at Art School in the 90s, I first discovered that I had gone into a place of learning where the professors had bought into the idea that teaching method in art will distort and hinder the students creativity. This meant that most of the professors could take the day off work and stay home and paint or sculpt or write or watch TV. So they did. The idea that showing a person how to construct and make sense of their ideas or art will destroy any chance of creativity is ludicrous and unfounded. I am certain it was more to the benefit of professors who were able to shirk the difficult job of teaching without interfering in a student’s natural ability to come up with pretty cool ideas that were worth pursuing in the classroom.
What these professor did teach was that students’ work was mostly useless, non-art and should be trashed immediately – until the confused student finally hit upon the idea to trick the professor by painting a picture that resembled the professors’ style. The professor, being egoistic, would then exclaim that the student had made progress and was now on the route to success. Student grins and sticks middle finger into the air.
The student used method to create something that pleased the professor. The method was to ensure that in copying or emulating a style of work achieved by a so called professional artist would cover the important points of structure and composition that would ensure that it appeared pleasing to the eye, clean in colour and as an idea confidently executed to possibly mean something to a viewer or reader. All the points that the professor believed to be important elements in a painting were present and therefore resembled “art” in one way or another.
The professor, now having been tricked into giving the student creedence, would follow the student’s work and use it as an example for other meandering lost student souls to benefit from.
The student would then continue to use the structures of composition and colour that he discovered when emulating the professor’s work and go on to produce his own ideas that continue to please the professor.
The whole process would have been much easier and shorter had the professor admitted that he can’t be a teacher and a non-teacher. He has to show that structure and form are important to a work of art, writing, fiction, texts or illustrations so that the kernel idea of the writer/artist can find a platform for expression. The main idea of a story doesn’t become distorted or “missed” if method is used.
Larry Brooks has given us a very useful book that helps us to always arrive at the point where when we have great idea to write about and turn into story, we will have a framework to use that will ensure that we can at least get to the start line and begin the real work of writing a novel.