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Story Structure – What I’m Reading Wednesday

What I'm Reading Wednesday

Hello! Lisa here, ready to deliver some writing tips on this “What I’m Reading Wednesday.” Each week, I’ll be sharing information or just general thoughts about whatever I’m reading at the moment, in an attempt to glean wisdom and useful tidbits for our own writing. So let’s get going!

This week (and for the next few weeks), I’ll be sharing what I’ve learned in the online Advanced Fiction Writing course I’ve been participating in.  I highly recommend it as a foundational writing course if you’re just starting out, or as a refresher course if you’ve got some writing under your belt and want to fine-tune your skills.

Story vs. Plot

In the first lesson, Story Structure, Steve Alcorn, full-time published author and writing instructor, begins by pointing out the difference between story and plot, story being the emotions a character endures, plot being the physical actions the character takes throughout the story. This makes sense to me, although I have to admit that I’ve always thought of story and plot as interchangeable terms. Now I know that when I’m showing a character’s motivations, emotions, and thoughts, I’m telling that character’s story. When I’m describing action sequences and events that take place, I’m focusing on plot. That’s a helpful distinction, I think.

Dramatic Elements of Fiction

Next, Mr. Alcorn shares an overview of the Four Dramatic Elements of fiction: passion, theme, character flaw, and premise.

  • Passion, as I understand it, is whatever drives you to tell the particular story you’re telling. There can be any number of reasons, and each contributes to your sense of passion for your story.
  • Theme is the central message of your story. It’s what you want your reader to take away from your piece. This is actually exactly how I teach it to my fifth graders, and they struggle to understand it. I think I also struggle to understand it sometimes, but I do “get” the concept.
  • Character flaw is some sort of defect, whether mentally, physically, spiritually, or otherwise, that will allow the character’s journey to reflect the theme. In fact, the very flaw that the character possesses will, after his or her epiphany, be the thing that becomes a source of strength toward the end. This was a brand new idea to me, and one that I have spent a lot of time thinking about and trying to get right as I’m outlining some future projects.
  • Premise the nice tying up of all the previous elements with a pretty bow. It summarizes the plot with a simple question: “What if X character (with flaw) encountered Y passion/theme?” For example, “What if a controlling, perfectionistic mommy blogger encountered a paranormal world where anything can, and does, happen?”

Three-Act Structure

Finally, the Story Structure lesson ends with a discussion of the Three-Act Structure. I’ve actually created a free, downloadable worksheet with information and exercises for you to try as you explore this concept. To grab it, just click here. Once you confirm your email address, you’ll receive the worksheet instantly.

Thank you for joining me today for What I’m Reading Wednesday. I’d love your feedback about this post – was it too long? Too short? Helpful? Not so? Drop a comment below – we really do read and respond do every one.

Till next week, keep telling yourself “I can do this!”

Published inWhat I'm Reading WednesdayWriting Tips

One Comment

  1. Jakki Hatchett Jakki Hatchett

    Wow, such good information! I never thought of the difference between story and plot. I also like the idea of the character flaw. I’m impressed. And I can do it!

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