ANATOMY OF A STORY

Maybe itโ€™s my engineering background that compels me to take things apart.  I treat my writing no differently.  Before I sat down to write my first novel, I picked out four novels in the same genre and I dissected them.  I had no background in creative writing and this seemed like the best approach for me.  I broke down each story into component parts: action and reaction scenes, characters, their entrances and exits, and their motivations, changes in points of view, the plots and subplots, etc.  I did this chapter by chapter.  I read a chapter and made my notes.  When I reached the end I had a complete guide on how each book was created.  I could look over my notes and see how the threads pulled together and how all the parts connected to make a seamless narrative.  This exercise gave me a lot of confidence when I started outlining my novel.  It forced me to think about all the components that make a good book and helped me avoid the common errors of a novice writer.

I still analyze my favorite books every time I begin a new book.  I find it puts me in the mood to write my story and sharpens my mind.  I use unabridged audio books now.  It allows me to make notes while I listen.

Writing is an art, but itโ€™s not all instinctual.  Thereโ€™s a mechanical side to good storytelling and to master it, you need to know how it works.

Simon Wood

PS: Apologies for the brevity of this entry, but I had a death in the family this week and I’m busy with family matters.

7 thoughts on “ANATOMY OF A STORY

  1. MJ

    Simon I did that too! I wrote one novel – realized what crap it was. Had no training in creative writing – didn’t want to go back to school so I took four books I loved and anyalyzed them. Remains of the Day, Rebecca, Catcher in The Rye and The Music School. I gave myself a year to study the books and then sat down and wrote the second novel. It got me an agent and was eventually published as my third novel. It was a great way to learn.

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  2. Naomi

    I’ve found this exercise very helpful as well. I don’t get much out of “how to write” books (although I think I got this idea initially from a book), but doing my own analysis certainly demystifies what is necessary in constructing a good manuscript.

    Hope you are doing as well as you can be during this time, Simon.

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  3. JT Ellison

    I did this too. When I was just starting, I knew something was missing from my writing. I took a John Sandford novel and plotted it out on art paper. Seeing the arc structure made it all come alive. It’s an excellent exercise, one I do to this day.So sorry for your loss, Simon. You’re in my thoughts.

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  4. Julia Buckley

    Simon, I’m sorry to hear about the death in your family.

    And it must be your engineer’s brain; I have a lazy brain, and while I love reading other people’s works, I have never wanted to dissect them. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  5. Pari

    This is great advice, Simon. I’ve never tried it in a systematic way; now might be the time.

    Please take care and take time to grieve.

    Pari

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