There is a lot of talk about plot, plotting and story structure right now. So have my take that absolutely nobody asked for. It is mainly, you do you and make sure it looks shiny. 😊
For many years I did my best to learn how to plot correctly and, in that process, completely scrambled the three-act-structure. In consequence, I now think of some projects in thirds, though it is not guaranteed that each third is equal in words and content to the others. It’s a third in my mind that that is where the ‘plotting’ happens.
What I am trying to say is, that over time, I had to learn that story structure as taught does nothing for me but confuse and frustrate me. I am very certain that stories have a structure and that knowing what it is helps you write them. What I am also certain of is that you have to do you here.
So, look at Horny WIP with me which most definitely has thirds. Like, three parts and they are definitely, well, ok. The first third has about 13k, the second around 45k and the last third has 18k. Makes sense, right?
But this is how thirds work for me in writing. Three acts – beginning, middle, end. I think somebody may have forgotten to tell me that those are not supposed to be the same length? (Are they? Halp! 😭)
Anyways, for me, a third contains a certain part of the story that I deem necessary.
Part 1: This is where we get to know the characters, what they want, how that intersects with the other character’s wants. How they decide or are forced to be in contact.
Part 2: Where the characters achieve what they think they want only to realise that it wasn’t this at all. The decision to work together for real to get what they really want and defeat the Final Boss.
Part 3: Where the characters beat the Final Boss and live happy ever after.
Example Space Wizards:
Part 1: Naida & Zeko are introduced, their unrelated goals are shown and how they can use each other to achieve them
Part 2: Following their goals, both achieve them only to find it is not what they actually want and they find the Final Boss.
Part 3: They work together and defeat the Final Boss.
Example Horny WIP:
Part 1: Salma and Samson are introduced and how they are at odds with each other. Ends with finding something they have in common.
Part 2: They get close to each other (aka they bang a lot) and realise who the Final boss is.
Part 3: they defeat the Final Boss and live horny ever after
If I want a story to make more sense parts-wise, I tend to use a device of my own making because it is neatly tailored to how I think about story progress.
Mel’s Amazingly Accurate Chart of Story Structure*
As you can see, even breaking it down to steps I have two different kinds of beginnings that, in my head, are a different structure because they need different things.
Returning to Horny WIP.
1: Let’s finish this: Salma and Daniel finish a job and get an assassin thrown into the mix
2: Brave New World: Life and Job are different with an assassin thrown in the mix
3: You Asked For an Additional Problem?: Oop, Assassin is in love with Salma
4: I Did Not But I’ll Deal: Salma falls in love with the assassin, too
5: VICTORY! (oh, no…): They accept they belong together and trigger the Final Boss into action
6: Course Correction: Planning to kill The Final Boss
7: BOOYA!: Final Boss is dead, but so is the assassin
8: We’re Done Here: He not dead, of course!
Now the steps tell me clearly what will have to happen to get me to the next stage. Without assassin, he can’t complicate life and fall for my protag. If he doesn’t fall in love, neither can she, and if they don’t decide to live their relationship, the Final Boss doesn’t get involved and I don’t get my showdown. Clear as dumplings.
Plot is how I structure a story to make it make sense. So I guess it makes sense if other people’s structures don’t work for me much because they are not inside my head and what I have to help me sort my way will probably not help them in return.
Another thing that is not helping me is that I am very accepting of plot structures. I do not need or even want beats that tell me where I am. My pattern recognition is a high performer and I hate it when a book tells me what is going on by relying on traditional structure. (Yes, this happened and I did not approve.)
On the other hand I am somewhat looking forward to people pointing out how I rely on tried and tested plot structures once my books are out.
Heads work different. As long as it works, we should be fine. 🤷♀️