Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Shape of Stories

I think about story shape a lot.

Apparently, I am not the only one. I found this video on the SFWA website of author Kurt Vonnegut talking about the shape of stories:

Sometimes I describe my writing process as building a creature from the inside out. In the first draft, I'm constructing the skeleton. Then I add muscles so it can move. Lungs so it can breathe. Heart so it can feel. And then last, I layer on the skin so that the reader doesn't see all the goop underneath.

But it's that first draft, the skeleton draft, where I am discovering the shape of the story.

My personal favorite story structure goes a little like this:

La-la-la. AHHHHH!!!! Oh, no. Oh, no. OH, NO!!! Yay? Yikes, yikes, YIKES! Phew. AHHHH!!!! Go, go, go! Wheeee!!! Ahhhh.... Smooch.

I wonder sometimes if my preference for story shape has been determined by the kind of books I read, OR if the kind of books I read (and write) is determined by my preference for a particular story shape...

What do you guys think? Is story shape something you notice as you read/write? Do you have a favorite story shape?

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At 11:31 PM, Blogger storyqueen said...

I don't think I have a favorite story shape, but the one I just finished editing is shaped like a necklace...lots of lovely beads connected by a single yet very strong string.


At 1:27 AM, Blogger Q said...

I...like books with a satisfying ending. SOMEONE has to be happy. Not everyone, but someone I care about. And they don't have to be completely happy, either, but something has to make it worth the sacrifices they should have made.

Hmm... Sacrifice. Must incorporate that into writing paradigm. They say to always know what your character wants, but I just realized that you should also know what he or she is willing to sacrifice to get it.

Thanks for bringing on that epiphany! (It's surely so obvious to you that you didn't even realize you were doing it, which makes you all the more awesome.)

At 4:41 PM, Blogger SavyLeartist said...

I think my story shape is a big bang in the beginning, and mystery and like slipping into a whole new world. Epics, with grand prophecies, and a strong central character and a small group of people traveling across a vast world. And of course, a happy ending :P

At 10:24 PM, Blogger Priya Sridhar said...

My stories probably shaped like a pear; when things get worse the story opens up, and when they get resolved, the story closes. The pinch is when you think there is no hope at all.
My favorite books like Ice and The Giver seem to be pear-shaped.


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