On this blog every Tuesday and Friday I write about story techniques, structure, and/or publishing. Comments and questions are welcome. I also have a personal blog, Amy Deardon, on which I write about a variety of topics purely as they catch my fancy.

I've written one novel, A Lever Long Enough, that I'm honored to say has won two awards. In my life BC (before children) I was a scientist who did bench research.

My book, The Story Template: Conquer Writer's Block Using the Universal Structure of Story, is now available in both hard-copy and e-book formats. I also coach would-be novelists and screenwriters to develop their story. YOU CAN CONTACT ME at amydeardon at yahoo dot com.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Top Ten Events

This is a short series to help focus your writing for NANO.

Now that you've briefly reviewed an effective way to develop scenes (and sequels) in your story, you need to know how you're going to have your story unfold.

A story has a definite sense of progression. Some general story themes that you can explore, in order from beginning to end, might be:

Introduce your main character (MC), and a few other important characters especially the character with whom your MC has a difficult relationship, and possibly the antagonist. Your MC may be experiencing a slow sense of suffocation in his ordinary world.

Suggest a desire or opportunity for your MC, and describe a limited task or goal he can pursue.

After finishing his limited task show the MC entering into a new environment and being presented with a big goal. If your antagonist enters the story after after the midpoint, you'll need just a big goal. For example, in the film Sky High Will is anxious attending a school for superheroes, since he has yet to demonstrate superhero powers. His goal after he enters the school is to discover or develop these powers. Alternatively, if your antagonist is present from the beginning you'll have some idea of your overriding story goal. In the film U571 the WWII sub crew with Ryan as second in command knows from the beginning that their goal will be to capture a Nazi ENIGMA encoding machine, the story goal.

Describe how the MC successfully adapts to his new environment, and introduce some friends that will walk with him through his journey.

Create a big event that changes the MC's perspective on his big goal. For example, in Sky High Will suddenly develops super-strength, and becomes a school hero in a well-attended exercise. Will will now be OK! (false high). In U571 the main USA sub is blown up and its captain drowned, necessitating Ryan to move his remaining crew to a crippled Nazi sub (disaster).

Explore how the antagonist appears and continues to gain strength, while your MC continues to face problems.

Describe another big scene in which someone or something dies, and the MC now knows what his final encounter with the antagonist will be.

Come up with unlikely ideas the MC may use to defeat the antagonist.

Describe the final blow-counterblow encounters of the MC with antagonist.


These themes describe how a story develops. To do your story, a good trick to start is to list ten main events that will occur in your story. If you can't come up with ten, you'll know immediately that you don't have enough "stuff" to carry a novel -- so add events THAT PUSH THE STORY GOAL FORWARD. Avoid the one-darn-thing-after-another syndrome, in which you describe events that don't really change the main story arrow. As you add events, make sure they're critical to answering your story question.

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