Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Story Template by Amy Deardon

The Story Template: Conquer Writer's Block Using the Universal Structure of Story is a new book by author Amy Deardon (A Lever Long Enough) who looks at story structure from a unique angle. Basically, Deardon watched a dozen or so movies and read a good number of books, all of which drew huge audiences, and analyzed them. She noted common elements of the stories that fall at very specific places in the time line, and used her findings to create a template on which to build a story.

Deardon also discusses the four "pillars" of story (character, plot, story world, and moral) and what encompasses each. There are exercises throughout that will help you through each portion of the template. And she touches on some basic principles of writing as well as gives a smattering of advice about editing and manuscript submission. Those last areas are by no means comprehensive, but  Deardon includes a great listing of resources for delving into them.

I don't want to give detail about the template itself or the pillars--well, because, I want you to go buy this book. I loved the concept Deardon has come up with. It's very scientific, but at the same time it allows for complete creativity. It's technical, but at the same time she gives so many examples and lists questions in each section of exercise that will easily guide you. There's a great summary of the template in the book, too, that makes for a great quick-reference once you've already read through and completed the exercises.

At first glance, you may think the book is strictly for those who love to outline their novels. And I definitely think it would be a huge benefit for that kind of writer. It lays out all the elements and helps you get everything in order, in the right proportion, and the various "pillars" interconnected. She recommends the use of note cards and story boards--things that make pantsers cringe.

BUT, I think all writers--outliners, pantsers, and hybrids--would benefit from this book, just in different ways. As I read through, I was mentally checking my already written and published novel, Finding Angel, against her recommendations. First, it was lovely to see that I apparently grasped a lot of this intuitively, as I was able to pretty much check off everything Deardon discussed. And as I did so, I couldn't help thinking what a great tool for someone who has finished a manuscript to go through and find if and where anything isn't right with their story! I believe wholeheartedly that if your manuscript seems "off" in any way, The Story Template will help you pinpoint why.

Deardon takes you through creating a one-sentence description of your story concept, to a larger description, to a full synopsis. If you've already written your manuscript, follow her techniques backwards to narrow down your story to a synopsis and then a one-line pitch. I wish I'd had this book when I was trying to do that for Finding Angel--I really think it would have made the process much less painful!

All in all, I highly recommend this book. More experienced writers may find the later writing, editing, and submission basics chapters something they can skim past, but they are great chapters for newer writers who need to know "what's the next step." And as I said, it makes for a excellent reference for all writers when either planning out their story before writing and/or evaluating it once the first draft is complete.

For more info, visit Amy Deardon's blog: The Story Template
And find the book on Amazon and B&

1 comment:

Amy Deardon said...

Kat, thanks for the shout out! And congrats on your new story acceptance :-)