Writing, Re-writing and Editing for Structure (Part I)

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Writing, Re-writing and Editing for Structure (Part I). = Developing a Story that Works. What are the elements of a story ?. Setting Characters Conflict Plot (with rising action, climax, denouement) Point of view Theme. But having those doesnt automatically give you a story. - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

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Writing, Re-writing and Editing for Structure (Part I)

= Developing a Story that Works

What are the elements of a story?SettingCharactersConflictPlot (with rising action, climax, denouement)Point of viewThemeBut having those doesnt automatically give you a story.Summarizing IntroInverted Pyramid StructureMajor DetailsMinor DetailsTypical Structure for Scientific American FeaturesLedeNut grafHistory/contextFuture directionsConclusion/kickerMain barChronologicalBlock 1Typical Structure for Scientific American Features (contd.)Block 2Block 3Etc.Progression of Ideas & ArgumentsArgument 1Typical Structure for Scientific American Features (contd.)Argument 2Argument 3Etc.What is Story Structure?And Why Does It Matter?Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting by Robert McKee (It Books, 1997)

Story structure is a strategically composed sequence of events selected from the characters lives that arouses a satisfying series of emotions and expresses a specific view of life.

A story event creates meaningful change in a characters situation that is achieved through conflict. Paraphrasing McKee:Story structure is a strategically composed sequence of events and ideas selected from the characters lives and from the studied phenomena that arouses a satisfying series of emotions and expresses a specific understanding of science.

A story event creates meaningful change in a characters situation or in scientific understanding that is achieved through conflict or discovery. Adapting McKee for science journalism:Per McKee:The Five Functional Parts of a Successful NarrativeInciting IncidentProgressive ComplicationsCrisisClimaxResolutionWhat Your Story Is AboutBeginningEndingStoryline: How the characters engage with conflictWhat characters wantWhat characters getLearning from Vonnegut

Vonneguts Storytelling AdviceUse the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel it was wasted.Give the reader at least one character that he or she can root for.Every character should want something.Every sentence must do at least one of two things: reveal character or advance the action.Start as close to the end as possible.Be a sadist.Write to please just one person.Give your reader as much information as possible as soon as possible.Vonneguts Storytelling AdviceUse the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel it was wasted.Give the reader at least one character that he or she can root for.Every character should want something.Every sentence must do at least one of two things: reveal character or advance the action.Start as close to the end as possible.Be a sadist.Write to please just one person.Give your reader as much information as possible as soon as possible.Know what your story is about.Let your reader know. Make good on that promise.Vonneguts Storytelling AdviceUse the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel it was wasted.Give the reader at least one character that he or she can root for.Every character should want something.Every sentence must do at least one of two things: reveal character or advance the action.Start as close to the end as possible.Be a sadist.Write to please just one person.Give your reader as much information as possible as soon as possible.Have protagonists and antagonists.Vonneguts Storytelling AdviceUse the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel it was wasted.Give the reader at least one character that he or she can root for.Every character should want something.Every sentence must do at least one of two things: reveal character or advance the action.Start as close to the end as possible.Be a sadist.Write to please just one person.Give your reader as much information as possible as soon as possible.Your characters need motives.What is at stake?Vonneguts Storytelling AdviceUse the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel it was wasted.Give the reader at least one character that he or she can root for.Every character should want something.Every sentence must do at least one of two things: reveal character or advance the action.Start as close to the end as possible.Be a sadist.Write to please just one person.Give your reader as much information as possible as soon as possible.If information doesnt contribute to the story, it doesnt belong.Vonneguts Storytelling AdviceUse the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel it was wasted.Give the reader at least one character that he or she can root for.Every character should want something.Every sentence must do at least one of two things: reveal character or advance the action.Start as close to the end as possible.Be a sadist.Write to please just one person.Give your reader as much information as possible as soon as possible.Leave out what doesnt belong.Focus keeps the reader attentive.Vonneguts Storytelling AdviceUse the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel it was wasted.Give the reader at least one character that he or she can root for.Every character should want something.Every sentence must do at least one of two things: reveal character or advance the action.Start as close to the end as possible.Be a sadist.Write to please just one person.Give your reader as much information as possible as soon as possible.Conflict.Without conflict, there is no story.Vonneguts Storytelling AdviceUse the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel it was wasted.Give the reader at least one character that he or she can root for.Every character should want something.Every sentence must do at least one of two things: reveal character or advance the action.Start as close to the end as possible.Be a sadist.Write to please just one person.Give your reader as much information as possible as soon as possible.Have a specific audience in mind.Know what that audience wants.Vonneguts Storytelling AdviceUse the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel it was wasted.Give the reader at least one character that he or she can root for.Every character should want something.Every sentence must do at least one of two things: reveal character or advance the action.Start as close to the end as possible.Be a sadist.Write to please just one person.Give your reader as much information as possible as soon as possible.Give information at the right time and place in a storynot too soon, not too latein service to the story arc .

John McPheeIt sounds very mechanical, but the effect is the exact opposite. What it does is free you to write. It liberates you to write. Youve got all the notes there; you come in in the morning and you read through what youre going to try to write, and theres not that much to read. Youre not worried about the other ninety-five percent, its off in a folder somewhere. Its you and the keyboard. You get away from the mechanics through this mechanical means. The spontaneity comes in the writing, the phraseology, the telling of the storyafter youve put all this stuff aside. It may sound like Ive got some sort of formula by which I write. Hell, no! Youre out there completely on your ownall youve got to do is write.On using an outline:

John McPheeStructure is not a template. Its not a cookie cutter. Its something that arises organically from the material once you have it. In The Encircled River I go to Alaska, and make that trip, and soak up that world. Its the story of a journey. Within that journey certain things happened, such as an encounter with a big grizzly. That grizzly encounter was a pretty exciting thing, and it happened near the beginning of the trip. That was somewhat inconvenient structurally, because its such a climactic event. But you cant move that bear, because this is a piece of nonfiction writing. On using structure to the storys advantage:

John McPhee But what if you started telling the piece of writing further down the river, I wondered. That way, when you get to the end of the trip, youre really only halfway through the story. What you do then is switch to the past tense, creating a flashback, and you back up and start your trip over again. By the time you get to that bear, that bear is at the perfect place for a climax.

Thats whats exciting about nonfiction writing. In this case its a simple flashback, but it also echoes all these cycles of the present and the past.On using structure to the storys advantage:Essential Building Blocks for Feature Storytelling

Feature ledes: Feature ledes & nut grafs lure and invoke the storythey hint where it will goThey justify the storys existence as a demand on readers attentionThey compel the reader to finish the story by making promisesTransitions: Never Let the Readers GoInner vs. outer transitionsHow big a jump can your readers cross?Look for the hidden seamsKickers: The words that ring in their earsGive closure to the articlenarratively and emotionallyThey shape readers last memories of the articleA great kicker makes readers want to do something with the article: share it, act on it, etc.Dont Rough the KickerDont get too clever for your own goodLay the groundwork for the kicker earlier in the articledont swerve at the last secondSome additional suggestionsThink in terms of scenes.Whats the minimum number of characters, settings, ideas, etc., you need to tell this story?Beware of beautiful language. Be willing to kill your favorites.Interleaving chronologies can be good. But if youre using flashbacks, ask yourself why.Try cutting off the beginning and the end to see what happens.Advice and Examples of Stories that Works

Rebecca SklootVideo of her talking about how structure helps her tell the story:rebeccaskloot.com/writing/writing-resources

The Open Notebook www.theopennotebook.com

Nieman Storyboard: Editors Roundtable www.theniemanstoryboard.org

Nieman Storyboard: Whys This So Good? www.theniemanstoryboard.org

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