Category Archives: Plot

Another Way to Tell a Story: Sociological vs Psychological Storytelling

On the occasion of the largest pandemic in a century, you might’ve watched or re-watched Contagion, a star-studded 2011 movie directed by Steven Soderbergh about a deadly virus originating from China that sweeps the globe. The film is currently having a renaissance on Netflix due to its striking similarities to real-world events, though its more cerebral and realistic take on a world-wide pandemic resigned it to an underwhelming box office haul upon its originally release in theaters.

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Breaking Down What a Story Actually Is…And What It Isn’t

[This blog was originally published in Night Owl Reviews]

No writing workshop is complete without a definition of a story explained to the audience of aspiring authors. They come in flavors from simple to complicated, though I prefer the simple ones.

A plot is not a story!A plot is a series of events that forms an overarching narrative with a beginning, middle, and end. A plot is stuff that happens. A story is stuff that happens for a reason,which is provided by the characters. At its very basic elements, a story is “plot plus characters.”

Here’s the definition of a story I’ve found most useful:

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Baking Literary Bread, Part 3 – How to Solve Common Story Problems Using the Recipe

[This blog was originally published in Night Owl Reviews]

Last time, we discussed the correct order and ratio of all the necessary ingredients for a successful story: hook (page 1) -> inciting incident (anytime before plot point 1) -> plot point 1 (PP1; 20-25% mark) -> midpoint (50% mark) -> plot point 2 (PP2; 75% mark) -> climax/denoument (last 90%).

Knowing the correct order and ratio can solve a lot of issues with a manuscript that readers complain about but authors may have a hard time interpreting. Here are a few ambiguous but common problems decoded into their meaning and solution:

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Baking Literary Bread, Part 2 – The Right Recipe for Success

[This blog was originally published in Night Owl Reviews]

In my last column, I talked about the critical ingredients to craft a coherent story. You might recall my genius bread-baking metaphor: like a story, there are an infinite number of different kinds of bread you can bake, but all loaves of bread have certain ingredients in common that make it bread rather than cake or pizza. However, just knowing what ingredients to put in isn’t enough. You also need to know the ratio of each, and the order in which they should be added.

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3 Reasons Why You Should Never Skip The Inciting Incident

[This blog was originally published in Night Owl Reviews]

“Hmmm…I need to start my story off with a bang because I’m told your average reader is a narcoleptic millennial with ADD…I’m just gonna start it in the middle I guess…Dammit, why is writing so hard??”

Maybe I’ve been cursed by the book gods and need to sacrifice another virgin at the secret blood altar they keep in my local library’s basement (all the best libraries have one), but I’ve had crap luck with books lately. I’ve DNF’d the last four out of five books I’ve read, primarily for story mechanics issues. They’ve either dragged or didn’t establish a solid foundation before jumping into the action, or just weren’t very compelling stories. I’m a slow-as-shit reader, so slogging through a book I’m not that into can take weeks to reach the payoff of a “meh” experience. If a book doesn’t hook me within the first ~30%, I peace out and move on.

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Baking Literary Bread, Part 1: The Basic Ingredients Every Story Must Have To Succeed

[This blog was originally published in Night Owl Reviews]

Everybody who’s ever attempted to bake a delicious loaf of bread from scratch knows firsthand the endeavor is part art, part science. The delicate balance of flavors and textures—that’s art. Ensuring the loaf doesn’t dissolve into a puddle of goo—that’s science. There are an infinite number of different kinds of bread you can bake—banana, zucchini, raisin nut, marble wheat, etc.—but they all have certain ingredients in common—flour, yeast, baking soda, salt, water—and require a certain order of preparation—mix ingredients, bake, let cool. Without the right ingredients in specific quantities and in the proper order, you end up with the aforementioned inedible goo.

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