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 J. Carlton Ross



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Writing A Story


Once Upon A Time......

  and so on and so on and so on and so on.............


     1. A character,

     2. in a situation,

     3. with a problem,  



     4. Makes an intelligent effort to solve the problem, and

     5. fails.      (Repeat as necessary to build tension, suspense, etc.)



     6. The character finally succeeds (or fails ultimately) in solving the problem.


  7. Validation. ("He's dead, Jim." "The Force will be with you, always." "Tomorrow is another day.") NOTE: When writing about an anti-hero, replace steps 4 and 5 with "Protagonist keeps getting closer and closer to victory;" and step 6 with "Protagonist goes down in flames." Validation for the anti-hero may be a triumph of spirit, as with Randle Patrick McMurphy in ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST.

  This seven-point structure doesn't mention setting, but that's assumed to be part of the character's situation.

Conflict, perhaps one of fiction's most important qualities, springs from the character's inability to solve his problem. Conflict

also springs up between characters with different outlooks, goals and temperaments ("Your actions are not logical, Dr. McCoy." "I'm a doctor, not a computer, Spock!").

  You'd be surprised how often the seven-point structure applies to stories, from classics like HAMLET all the way up to the movie DIE HARD.

   Compare the seven-point structure above with Dean R. Koontz's Plot Pattern:

     1. The author introduces a hero (or heroine) who has just been (or is about to be) plunged into terrible trouble.

     2. The hero attempts to solve his problems, but only slips into deeper trouble.

     3. As the hero works to climb out of the hole he's in, complications arise, each more terrible or daunting than the one  before, until it seems that his situation could not be blacker and more hopeless--and then one final, unthinkable complication makes matters even worse. In most cases, these complications arise from mistakes or misjudgments the  hero makes while he is struggling to solve his problems, mistakes and misjudgments which result from the interaction of  the faults and virtues that make him a unique character.

     4. At last, deeply affected and changed by his awful experiences and his intolerable circumstances, the hero learns  something about himself or about the human condition in general, a Truth of which he was previously ignorant, and having      learned the lesson, he understands what he must do to get out of the dangerous situation in which he has wound up. He  takes the necessary actions and either succeeds or fails, but more often than not he succeeds, for readers tend to greatly prefer fiction that has a happy ending!   



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