Story

The Wandering Hero

by John Robert Marlow
Thumbnail image for The Wandering Hero

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

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

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

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
Thumbnail image for Logline Workshop: Jurassic Park (SDFW, Part 3)

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…

Building the Perfect Logline (SDFW, Part 2)

by John Robert Marlow
Thumbnail image for Building the Perfect Logline (SDFW, Part 2)

Building the Perfect Logline for Your Book, Screenplay, or Other Story
(Story Development For Writers, Part 2)
by John Robert Marlow

THE ONLY QUESTION THAT MATTERS

When you’re selling a story (or trying to), there’s one thing everyone wants to know. To find out, they will ask you a simple question. And they will pre-judge your tale not on its merits, but on the answer you provide. Read more at Make Your Story A Movie .com…

Story Development for Writers, Part 1: The Basics

by John Robert Marlow
Thumbnail image for Story Development for Writers, Part 1: The Basics

Story Development for Writers, Part 1: The Basics
by John Robert Marlow

HOW NOT TO WRITE

Most writers, when they get around to writing, sit down and do just that—start writing. The story grows with no real plan or, at best, a fuzzy idea about where things are going and (maybe) how they’ll get there.

I know this because, as an editor, I see the less-than-stellar results. And when I ask how things wound up this way, the answer is most often the same: “I just started writing.” For most of us, this is not the way to write things worth reading.

Flashing the Reader

by John Robert Marlow
Thumbnail image for Flashing the Reader

Flashing the Reader: Flashbacks and Other Perilous Transitions
by John Robert Marlow

TRICKY TRANSITIONS

Few works of fiction relate events in a continuous flow, from start to finish. Sometimes the story moves back in time (as with flashbacks); more often it jumps forward, sparing the reader the dull details of ordinary life. Frequently, the transition will take the reader from one location (and set of characters) to another, lending a godlike perspective unavailable to the characters themselves. Each of these transitions has its place—and each is fraught with peril.

Opening with a Bang

by John Robert Marlow
Thumbnail image for Opening with a Bang

Opening with a Bang May Be Shooting Yourself in the Foot
by John Robert Marlow

HEROES IN PERIL

Many authors feel compelled to open their stories with a scene involving their hero in action and/or high drama. This is particularly true of those writing in the action/adventure and science fiction genres. But unless you know what to avoid here, this is almost always a mistake—and it can be a fatal one.