Saturday, April 30, 2011
Uncovering Larry Brooks
How many how-to writing books line your shelf? I’ll admit I have a few good ones, some that are so-so, and others a waste of good money. Recently I read one that is exceptional. Of course, until I read this last one I didn’t know the others were simply adequate, just that something was missing from them. The book I’m doing jumping jacks over is “Story Engineering” by Larry Brooks.
I heard from some of my other writer friends who said the book was great, but there were a lot of sports analogies. Initially, I was put off by that. Then on a Savvy Authors Chat, I heard him talk about his ideas on writing and I was captivated. I ran out and bought the book the same day.
Let me tell you that my experience reading Brook’s book was a moment of illumination complete with sound effects. Something along the lines of firecrackers going off in my head. It was a big aha moment. Yes! Really! Perhaps it was his passion that kept me reading. Even in a non-fiction book, I look for a writer’s enthusiasm for his subject. If the writer isn’t off the wall with excitement about his work how can I be. Brooks has that covered. He also kept my interest by taking all the puzzling pieces of writing a great story and putting them together to fit in a cohesive frame. No more pieces that don’t fit. It’s a guide to help you out of the maze of story building.
His approach is combining what he calls the six core competencies: the four elemental competencies of concept, character, theme, and story structure (plot), and two executional competencies of scene construction and writing voice. These are the elements to build a great story. I know you’ve heard about these essentials before but I’m betting never as clear as in Brook’s book. He explains why these pieces are important to your story and where and when to place them for optimum effect. What that means is now we have a method, a GPS for our stories that pinpoints where and when something needs to take place in the story to make it sing. Am I excited? Oh, yes! Knowing this is much better than doing a zillion drafts of a story and not knowing why it’s not working.
Brooks uses a four-part structure for story building in his book. I was working in a three-act structure and was confused how to restructure the story I am presently working on. So, I asked him.
His response was, “The 2nd act is broken in two halves, which become Part 2 and Part 3. I’ve broken the “confrontation” (act 2) down into two separate parts, because they have different missions. Part 2 is the hero’s “response” to the game changing twist of Plot Point One… then comes a context-shifting mid-point (new information that parts the curtain of awareness for the hero, the reader, or both)… followed by Part 3, in which the hero shifts into attack (proactive) mode. Everything in story architecture is best served when viewed as “mission-driven”, which is the case for each of the four different sequential parts of a story.” Can you see the benefits of having two parts to Act two. I believe this will eliminate the problem of writers losing their way in the middle of the story resulting in the dreaded sagging middle.
This process is not a confining net that will hold you back or cramp your creativity; in fact, it will do just the opposite. It’s a means, I believe, that will release undiscovered potential in your story writing. I’m not saying, nor is Brooks for that matter, that this is a slam dunk, but knowing the six core competencies will make a difference between a great read or a humdrum read.
If your dream is to be the best storyteller you can be and to have your work published, which is mine, then this is the book to read, study and master.
Has some aspect of story building been eluding you? As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Till next time,
Here is Larry Brook’s site to learn more: http://storyfix.com/category/six-core-competencies