Friday, July 8, 2011

Bones of my Story

We moved from Boise about four years ago. We sold our home by ourselves and so I spoke with many of our prospective buyers. Without fail they all told me that our house had 'good bones' but it wasn't the right fit. Not all of them said it exactly like that, but that was the basic gist of the conversation.

Our house was built well...good foundation, solid roof, intelligent design. But even with all those factors in place, they still walked away. Maybe we were asking too much, or maybe it was the crash of the stock market. Probably both.

I've wondered about the bones of my story, my novel. How is the design? Have I crafted it with a solid structure? Have I painted a realistic and viable back story? Have I covered all the plot points, patched up any holes?

And last, but not least...Do my characters want to live here? Why? What sets my story structure apart from all the others on the market? Does my design suit my protagonist? My antagonist? Will it showcase and provide a large enough stage for my conflict?

Are the bones of my story strong enough to support some dramatic blows? Could it withstand a few stretches of imagination? The windows might rattle, and the pipes might leak...but by the final chapter, after all the twists and conflicts, will my story be standing?

I've been reading Story Engineering by Larry Brooks. It's one of those books that I read, and re-read, make notes, and then read once more. It has several levels to it and each time I flip through it, I feel like I get a new insight from it.

One of Larry's main points is: your story must have the organization, strength and basic architecture to support all of your themes, characters, plot twists, conflicts, etc. Basically, does your house have good bones?

I'm doing some renovation of my story. I think it has all of the right elements, but I discovered, with the help of my writing partners, that there are a few cross beams missing, or maybe a few tiles on the roof need repair. Who knows, after the repairs are made, I may throw out an extra wing, or put in a skylight. Who knows. Whether it's a cabin or a cathedral, by the time I type the last word, I want to proudly pronounce, 'This house has good bones.'


Angie Cothran said...

Your story has great bones :) Just like letting multiple people walk though your house--and see different things--I think it is good to get multiple critiques from people you trust. Everyone will see something different.

Pk Hrezo said...

What a perfect analogy. Sometimes it's just a matter of personal taste. We just put our house up for sale and it sold in 48 hours. Some times peeps just get lucky.
I also like to compare getting an agent to when i beta read. Most stories I read have some really great elements and strong writing, but do I love it? Not usually. Some I do, but others, not. And it's not because there's anything wrong, just cuz it didn't resonate with me personally.

RAD - Dot Painter said...

Then I bet your house can withstand a tornado:) Donald Maass would tell you to throw one in there just to see what happens to your characters. Great blog post.

Kim said...

I too like this analogy. And thanks for the book suggestion, too - I will be checking that one out!

Becca Puglisi said...

Thanks so much for this post, and for the STORY ENGINEERING recommendation. I'm always looking on books to help with storytelling and structure. This sounds like a good one.

Becca @ The Bookshelf Muse

Ed and Cathy said...

Hey Sara! Your blog had me from the get-go! Nice analogy!

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