Story Fix, by Larry Brooks, I set out last week to begin my novel revision. Instead of starting at page one and beginning to reshape and refine the manuscript, I went through chapter by chapter to outline the number of pages in each chapter, the names of new characters as they are introduced, a brief chapter summary, and a blurb about what each chapter accomplishes for the plot. Creating this graph helped me to see where chapters are weak. where the structure doesn't flow adequately, and where extra dramatic tension needs to be inserted. I have to admit, I was a bit overwhelmed after looking things over. While I have a sense of where I want the story to go, I am beginning to see weaknesses that need to be addressed before I can revise the story.
I suppose I was prolonging that inevitable task when I came up with the brilliant idea of checking to see if our library carried any other books by Larry Brooks. Indeed, they had this title, Story Physics: Harnessing the Underlying Forces of Storytelling. While a lot of the information was very similar to what was presented in Story Fix, it was a good exercise to review the six core components to good storytelling and to look again at the importance of story structure.
Reading this book helped me to see where I have scenes that fail to move the action along. Moreover, his discussion on theme opened my eyes to the temptation I must avoid in building my alternate world with too much journalism, thereby putting the story on hold. Brooks writes, "When you can write about something happening and still make your story about something - [theme] ... then, and only then, will you have elevated your story to a level that someone, hopefully a reviewer, will call art." The author provides a list of questions to pose about each of your scenes to determine whether they hit the mark and advance the story.
In the final section of the book, Brooks turns to two novels, The Help, and The Hunger Games, to analyze the story physics displayed so brilliantly. I was shocked to discover that, although The Help was a New York Times bestseller for over a year, it was rejected by forty-five agents before finding someone who would help champion the book. This is further evidence of how very difficult it is to write and sell a novel. Even the great ones often struggle to find a home. It was greatly beneficial to review both of these stellar novels and look at how their structure falls in line with the recommended structure for great storytelling.