I love story.
I've been making up stories ever since I was a kid. Over the years, I've written countless short stories, screenplays, short films, half-finished novels, comic books and graphic novels.
However, just because I wrote a lot, doesn't mean I was any good at it.
I mean, I think I was decent. I think I've always had an inherent understanding of story. When you’re passionate about something and you do it enough, you’re bound to get better at it. But I think you need at least a basic understanding of the fundamentals in order to gain any true competence with something.
I've read a bunch of books on writing fiction over the years; too many to list off here. It wasn't until last year, however, that I decided to focus specifically on gaining a better understanding of storytelling and story structure. And boy, there was a lot I didn't know.
Save the Cat
Save the Cat Strikes Back
My Story Can Beat Up Your Story
Each was helpful, some more than others. After reading these books, what encouraged me most of all though, was that there really was a method for effective storytelling; and that it could be learned. I've often heard it said that structure in fiction results in cookie-cutter stories that are predictable. Well, my thought is that TOO much structure can be a bad thing. However, I feel that structure is actually a good thing.
If you know what you're trying to say with your story, I mean really pin it down, then this in and of itself suddenly limits the choices you can make creatively. To effectively support the position that your theme makes, certain things must happen in the story, and other things that do not support this position must be dropped. These non-essential scenes or ideas become narrative tangents that muddy up the clarity of the theme. So, if you're trying to tell a story that is actually ABOUT something, then yes, structure is a good thing. It is your guide. The creativity comes from the choices made within that structure.
With that said, in future posts I'll be talking more about these books, along with other storytelling helps I've found over this past year!