Friday, December 19, 2008

Start a Story with a Brainstorm Draft by Lawrence Roth

I have had a couple of my stories published; therefore I boldly offer my advice on how to write stories. I put together a story structure tool for myself to use when I begin to brainstorm a story. This helps me to outline a story, develop a protagonist and an antagonist, and to eventually write a story.

This story structure tool was mostly adopted from the screenplay guidelines developed by Syd Field. I have added my own touch and modified the guidelines for writing a story. I have also changed the structure to reflect four acts instead of three. Syd Field actually does discuss a four act structure but he still calls it a three act structure. In Syd Field's structure he designates an Act 2a and an Act 2b which I converted to Act 2 and Act 3. Here is the structure with definitions that I use:

Act I. Provocation
Opening The opening summarizes and sets the tone of the story.
Catalyst The catalyst is an inciting incident that will change the direction of the protagonist's life.
First Plot Point The first plot point is a surprising development that will radically change the protagonist's life and force him or her towards confrontation with the antagonist.
First Pinch The first pinch is an incident that addresses the main conflict and increases barriers between the protagonist and his or her goal.
Act II. Escalation
Middle Plot Point The middle plot point is a reversal of fortune or revelation that changes the direction of the story further decreasing the protagonist's ability to reach his or her goal.
Second Pinch The second pinch is an incident, similar to the first pinch, that address the main conflict and increases barriers between the protagonist and his or her goal.
Act III. Confrontation
Last Plot Point The last plot point is the incident that forces the protagonist to finally confront the antagonist.
Showdown The showdown is where the protagonist has the final battle with the antagonist and either wins or loses.
Act IV. Resolution
Resolution The resolution demonstrates how the issues of the story are resolved.
Epilogue The epilogue ties up the loose ends of the story and brings closure.

I define a basic story as being about a protagonist who must confront an antagonist to achieve a goal. Therefore, to start the process of brainstorming a story I decide on a name for my protagonist and a name for my antagonist. Then I decide what the goal is.

After outlining the main events in my story I start what I call the Brainstorm Draft. The problem I have had in the past is that I have started writing many stories but encountered the inevitable writer's block and did not finish the stories.

In the Brainstorm Draft I write the story from beginning to end using the outline as a guide. When I come across writer's block and find logic gaps in the transition from one event to another I keep writing regardless.

I have written several Brainstorm Drafts where Acts I, II, III and IV have no logical transition between them. For example I started one story that began with a character in a warehouse distribution center with the next event having the character being trapped in an underground tunnel beneath a mansion. How did the character get from one place to other?

I did not know at the time and I did not care. I did use the outline I had established to give direction to the story. I do not worry about making a logical transition until I write the rough draft.

In the Brainstorm Draft if I need a character in a warehouse in one event and then in a tunnel in the next event then that is what happens with or without a logical explanation. The reason I do this is to get the story written.

The Brainstorm Draft does two things for me: It helps me develop the characters and the story. The brainstorm session which can actually take a few hours each day for a couple of weeks is by far the most fun. This is when the characters come to life for me. I get to know the characters and their little personality quirks. I also develop a better sense of the story. I visualize the events and locations where the story takes place. It is after the Brainstorm Draft that the real work begins. This involves putting the rough draft together, editing and making names for the additional characters born within the brainstorm draft.

Therefore, brainstorming a Brainstorm Draft gets the main events from the outline written down, develops characters and prepares the story for a rough draft.

About the Author
Lawrence Roth in an independent web developer who owns and maintains Lawrence has worked on various e-commerce and website projects. Lawrence writes articles and stories to submit to online publications.