The Elements of Story

NaNo 2021 begins in 10 days. Right about now, story structure might be on your mind. Lynne Favreau, who co-founded Writers of the North Shore (that’s us) with Sarah Leahy, has written a really wonderful wealth of blog posts here that you’re invited to pursue any time of year – especially if you’re staring at a blank screen in need of direction, encouragement, or a shoulder to cry on. Or if you need someone to virtually hand you a mug of tea and lovingly say, “Now now, get your ass in the chair – You can DO this!”

Lynne has done all of those things and her blog posts were just one of the ways! They likely cover a topic on your mind right now, and each provides extra resources to check out.

Thought it might be timely to pull the below from that cache.

STORY

(an excerpt from Lynne’s blog post So You Think You Want to Write a Novel)

Where do ideas come from? Everywhere, and anywhere. They appear while you are reading other things, writing a grocery list, driving to the dentist.

Get in to the habit of jotting down the things you observe everyday. The way someone walks, the color of a flower, a scene taking place before you. The people in line at the grocery store. Extrapolate information from the little quirks, mannerism, word choices, that you see and hear. Turn them into character sketches. I insist…you must have the means of capturing your thoughts at all times.

Record a message on your phone, or have a small notebook in your purse or pocket. I have them everywhere.  I’m serious about this being a must. You will forget that crucial and inspiring plot point the second it leaves your consciousness…except for knowing that you had it. That will drive you crazy. Write it down.

There are different elements of story you can start with.

1. Primary Event

2. Story Arc: Beginning, Middle and End

3. Intriguing Situation that Immediately Suggests Cast of Characters in Conflict

4. Character

5. Genre: Type of Story You Want to Write (found in detail HERE)

It doesn’t matter what comes first, so long as it inspires you to ask, “And then what happens?”

I’ve written fully fleshed out characters inspired by photographs of homeless people, from random observations (a woman running with her dog that was carrying a dirt old shoe prompted a profile of a killer who happens to see them and knows the shoe is a clue to where he buried the body. What is he going to do about that?) Ideas are everywhere. You just have to keep asking the question: AND THEN WHAT HAPPENED?

And there you have it! Try one of those ideas (in her blog post about genre) and apply it to one of the other five elements of story she listed above.

Are you forming a story idea, and is it all mapped out or just going to wing it on November 1?

Do you have a way to jot things down wherever you are (Lynne insists!)?

Have you asked: And then what happened? for anything you’re working on? If so, did it help you get to the next place?

Please, tell us in the comments. We’d love to hear!

By Lynne Favreau and Rochelle Joseph