Today, Amy Deardon is here!
In her own words, Amy is a scientist and skeptic who came to faith under protest through studying the historic circumstances surrounding the death of Jesus. Having written research articles, newspaper columns, and other nonfiction, when she decided to write a novel she was surprised by how difficult it was to get the words down. She undertook a detailed study to understand how story works, and developed an algorithm that is published in THE STORY TEMPLATE: CONQUER WRITER’S BLOCK USING THE UNIVERSAL STRUCTURE OF STORY.
Lovely woman that she is, Amy has offered to give away either a paperback version or an ebook version of The Story Template to one lucky commenter. To get yourself entered, leave either a question for Amy or tell us which of the four story pillars comes most naturally to you as a writer. Contest ends Monday, November 7th, one entry per person por favor, and this is open to all peeps, not just US residents.
I don't know why I just wrote "peeps." I don't even like that word much. Nor do I like "pics."
The Four Story Pillars:
Some Structural Elements That You Need to Determine Before Starting Your Novel or Screenplay
Even if you’re an SOTP (seat of the pants) writer, a little planning can make writing your story easier. This article reviews a few foundational elements you should know about your story before you start.
The Four Story Pillars
A story (novel or screenplay) is often thought of as having two arms: outer and inner. The outer story covers the external plot: what your friend will summarize when you ask what a story is about. In contrast, the inner story describes the emotional journey of one or more characters. Different types or genres of stories tend to emphasize different arms – for example, a romance or literary work often focuses on inner story, while a mystery or action-adventure usually emphasizes outer story.
But how else might story be described? If you think about it, a story can also be considered as having two tiers of construction: concrete and abstract. The concrete tier describes the actual events and characters in the story, whereas the abstract tier comments on the broader applications of your story: why it may give insight into society, relationships, or life.
Using these two types of categories, I like to think of the story as having four story pillars. The PLOT is the actual story line with the story goal and external obstacles. The CHARACTER describes the inner emotional journeys of one or more characters. The STORY WORLD describes the specific environment and milieu in which the story takes place. The MORAL describes the theme or the ultimate take-home message that the story conveys.
You can put these four pillars into context, like this:
The STORY PREMISE, which is the fundamental concept that drives the story, comes from just one of these four pillars. For example:
Plot Pillar – Iron Man, Jaws
Character Pillar – Forest Gump, Rocky
Moral Pillar – Facing the Giants, Ender’s Game
Story World Pillar – Fellowship of the Ring, Harry Potter
Although the story centers around one pillar, the other pillars are developed to a greater or lesser extent, even for very unidimensional stories. For example, in the summer 2009 film G.I. Joe, the emphasis is on the OUTER STORY, both the action plot and the cool techno-weapons story world. However, even in such an over-the-top action movie, there is also a rudimentary inner love story of loss and redemption hiding between the bombs and outrageous conspiracy theories.
The more you can develop all four of these pillars, the more resonant and gripping your story will become. Some questions you might ask for each pillar:
PLOT: What is your story question? What is your story goal? What are the stakes of your story (the bad things that will happen if your protagonist doesn’t achieve his goal)? What is the main obstacle (usually the antagonist) blocking your protagonist from reaching his goal? What are some other obstacles?
CHARACTER: Who is your protagonist? What does he want in the story? Does he have a secondary protagonist? (The secondary protagonist works with the protagonist as a team to achieve the story goal, and is often a love interest). What is your protagonist’s “hidden” (emotional) need that will be fixed in the story? Who (or what) is the antagonist? What goals are your protagonist and antagonist competing for?
STORY WORLD: What is the time and place of your story? What are common social customs? What do buildings and structures look like? What do your characters eat, wear, and use? What is the weather like?
MORAL: What is the ONE universal principal that you want to explore in your story? Some examples of moral might be:
Romeo and Juliet: Great Love Defies Death.
Forest Gump: Unconditional Love Redeems the Rebel.
Fellowship of the Ring: Willingness to Relinquish Absolute Power Leads to Preservation.
The Godfather: Family Ties Overcome Individual Virtue.
Rocky: Courage and Persistence Lead to Significance.
The Incredibles: Working Together Allows Each Individual to Shine.
By developing all four of these story pillars, you will establish a strong base for your story to resonate with the reader or viewer.
Which of the four story pillars comes most naturally to you as a writer?