Plot

The Wandering Hero

by John Robert Marlow
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The Wandering Hero: No Goal, No Plot, No Chance
by John Robert Marlow

Imagine, if you will, a lead character who wanders aimlessly through 300 pages, with no particular destination in sight. As an editor, I don’t have to imagine it; I see it again and again—and yet again. The aspiring author sits down to write, and does—with no purpose in mind save following the exploits of their lead character. Trouble is, not every lead is worth following.

And therein lies the problem.

PSSST, HEY BUDDY…

Let’s say someone comes up to you in a bookstore, or outside a theater—perhaps even someone you find quite charming. And they say, “Hey dude, come with me, let’s hang out.” The first things you’ll want to know, of course, are where he wants to go and what he wants to do. So you ask. “I dunno,” he answers. Would you be inclined to go with him? Read more…

The Digital Outline: Creating a Beatline for Your Story (SDFW Part 6)

by John Robert Marlow
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The Digital Outline: Creating a Beatline for Your Story
(Story Development For Writers, Part 6)
by John Robert Marlow

PAY NO ATTENTION TO THAT MAN (OR WOMAN) BEHIND THE CURTAIN

You’ve no doubt heard that art is 1% inspiration, and 99% perspiration. Actually, it’s not that simple. If coming up with the concept is inspiration, and the actual writing is perspiration—that still leaves everything we’re doing now: logline, structure, pitch sheet and (finally) beatline. This is the man-behind-the-curtain-work that makes the final product—the art—seem effortless. To the audience, that is; the artist knows better.

HAMMERING OUT THE DETAILS

Now that we have the logline, structure, and pitch sheet in place, it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty details of just how, exactly, we get our characters from first page, through all seven story points, past the obstacle (which is usually, but not always, overcome) to the goal—and beyond.

This is the land of story development proper, an area many writers—and most beginners—ignore at their peril. Which sounds dramatic, but it’s true. Every good story is a new destination, never visited before. And unless you have a fondness for blundering through the forest in random directions (a fondness which your readers will not share), you’re going to need a map. Read more…

The One-Minute Story: Crafting a Pitch Sheet for Your Book, Screenplay, or Other Tale (SDFW Part 5)

by John Robert Marlow
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The One-Minute Story: Crafting a Pitch Sheet for Your Book, Screenplay, or Other Tale
(Story Development For Writers, Part 5)
by John Robert Marlow

PITCHING AS COURTSHIP

We already know (from Part 2 of this series) that most commercial concepts can be conveyed in 10 seconds or less, via something called a logline. Now we’re going to look at expanding that micropitch into something positively extravagant: a one-minute pitch. (Okay, sometimes it’s a minute and a half.)

Story Structure: Laying Down the Bones (SDFW Part 4)

by John Robert Marlow
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Story Structure: Laying Down the Bones
(Story Development For Writers, Part 4)
by John Robert Marlow

SEVEN ELEMENTS OF STRUCTURE

Classically-structured (three-act) stories have seven basic structural elements: inciting incident, first act turn, midpoint, low point, second act turn, climax, and denouement or wrap-up. Though you’ll occasionally hear about “mythically structured” tales (like Star Wars) having more than three acts, all of those acts fall within three major acts, so the structure laid out below still holds true.

It’s not as complicated as it sounds. Really. And the structure is exactly the same for books, movies, and other story venues—because story is story, regardless of medium.

Logline Workshop: Jurassic Park (SDFW, Part 3)

by John Robert Marlow
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Logline Workshop: Jurassic Park
(Story Development For Writers, Part 3)
by John Robert Marlow

Let’s walk through the process from start to finish, working up a logline for a story that most people already know. Jurassic Park was a hugely successful novel that went on to become one of Hollywood’s biggest hits. Keeping that logline mantra in mind—Who, Goal, Obstacle (see Building the Perfect Logline for Your Book, Screenplay, or Other Story for more on this)—how do we build a logline for this story? Building the Perfect Logline for Your Book, Screenplay, or Other Story for more on this)—how do we build a logline for this story?”> Read more at Make Your Story A Movie .com…

Coming to a Bad End

by John Robert Marlow
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Coming to a Bad End: Rabbit-Hats, Cliffbangers, and Other Cheats
by John Robert Marlow

Few things in life are worse than a bad story. One of them is a good story with a bad ending. At least with the bad story, it’s pretty clear what you’re dealing with, often in the first few chapters. So you really can’t blame the writer when, despite numerous warning signs, you slog all the way to page 347 before throwing in the towel. In a sense, you knew what you were getting into.

What A Coincidence!

by John Robert Marlow
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What a Coincidence! The Use and (Mostly) Misuse of Coincidence
by John Robert Marlow

COINCIDENCE

Few things are more deadly in the hands of the inexperienced. Not coincidentally, few things can destroy believability and author credibility with greater efficiency. With astonishingly few exceptions—most of which relate to works of comedy—the use of coincidence to move the plot forward marks the writer as a hack in the eyes of agents, publishers, and readers.