The business of building stories seems not much different from the business of building anything else.
This is the insight of Lester Dent, the pulp writer who created Doc Savage. This was a guy who would regularly churn out 90,000 to 100,000 words a month on a manual typewriter. There’s no two ways about it, he was a monster. (Carpal Tunnel? Try micro-fractures in your fingertips.)
So, naturally, I’m interested in anything he has to say about story construction. And it makes intuitive sense to me. I have an above average opinion of my prose style. Me makes pretty wordses. But for a long time, when I tried to write a story, it would suck. Literally, the thing would fall down when you were reading it.
My stories had no foundations, the walls weren’t square and the roofs leaked.
But when I started paying attention
to the structure and the rules of story. Magic started happening. And I went through a fundamental change. Instead of just enjoying the experience of a story, I started to also enjoy how they were made.
For a while I outlined obsessively. (I still do, only less obsessively.) I felt like there was a dearth of information about story and story construction. And that most of what was out there was written by people who weren’t writers. Who weren’t involved in the often messy business of writing stories. In short, dilettantes.
I’ve come to realize that it’s just the opposite. There is a wealth of story information out there. It’s just locked up in all the stories and films we love so much. It’s just that the first time I read or watched them I was too busy enjoying them (not a bad thing) to learn how they were put
together. Because a story, if properly constructed, becomes invisible. You don’t say – “What an elegant subplot.” You say, “Aw man, look what happened to Billy.”
So instead of keeping all these notes and thoughts in my head. I’m going to blog them.