Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Continuity in Story (more Larry Brooks notes)

Core Competencies

Yesterday I introduced my notes from Larry Brooks' 2-hour presentation on Storytelling and Concept. Today I've got a brush-through of what he's coined as the Six Core Competencies of Storytelling and more about story continuity. 

1) Concept: an evolution of your initial book idea. Concept is richer than an idea and interwoven with theme.

2) Character(ization): this refers to the character arc, the development of the hero through the story. Your character should evoke empathy in the reader.

3) Theme: what in your story points to the human experience, some universal, philosophical truth?

4) Story Structure: the linear, expository unfolding of story. Screen writers are awesome at this because the structure is rigid: 3 acts of story.

5) Scene Execution: is each scene written in context to the big vision of the whole story? Do you know the ending so you can allude all along to it with tight character and plot arcs?

6) Voice: this is the elegant writing we love to read and write. It is poignancy and metaphor and art, even if it's snarky and blunt. Voice usually determines your audience.

You know those books I was talking about yesterday with beautiful writing that made up for the loosely woven plot? They lacked story continuity. In other words, it's obvious when you read them that the authors didn't know the ending for the first half of the book. The ending suddenly came to them and they made it work, usually going back to add in foreshadowing and depth later. 

Writing this way can be difficult because Number 5, Scene Execution, requires a total vision. Otherwise you get scenes where the hero is wandering around looking for some way to solve his problem, or some side character stepping in and wasting the reader's time with something that has zero ramifications for the climax. 

Make the whole novel work with the ending so the reader doesn't get to the end and feel like she's just read two different books. Everything should point to the end: foreshadowing, character fears, symbolism, even the setting. Write every page in context to where the story is going and what it's really about (concept).

One more note about CONCEPT for those of you who read yesterday and felt my notes didn't really tell you how to do this:

Concept begs a question that people are dying to have answered. 
Frame your concept with a question that begins with "What if?"

I played around with this one-line-pitch style and had a heck of a time of it. It takes you a little bit out of plot (all the things that happen) and puts you squarely in the main conflict. 

What if a futuristic society split between a flourishing Capitol and thirteen emaciated Districts conscripts poor children to fight to the death gladiator-style for the entertainment of Capitol residents? What if your little sister was chosen to compete?

More on this two-hour class tomorrow. There was just SO MUCH good stuff! If you haven't already, follow his website,

On Operation Awesome, Lindsay talks about too many great options in e-readers and compares it to the agent hunt with helpful links for agent research.

Afterglow contributor Kristine Asselin wrote her first review! You've heard of the movie Beastly, but have you read the book yet? Kristine makes a convincing case for why you should read BEASTLY by Alex Flinn.

And a tribute to the SHORT STORY on The Best Damn Creative Writing Blog called Why Write Short Stories?

Sarah M. Eden was one of the most golden finds at the LDStorymakers conference. I have notes from her class (All you need is love... and some other stuff) to be posted sometime in the next few weeks. But for now, I wholeheartedly recommend her website: She's posted the hilariously adorable videos she shared of her kids when she was MC-ing the conference. And Afterglow's Angie Cothran raved about Sarah's most recent book (The Kiss of a Stranger) on Monday. 


  1. Oh, I was only able to make the Saturday workshops, so I missed Larry Brooks. Sounds like it was an amazing class! And, agreed. Sarah Eden is just adorable!! (although, I didn't sit in on her class either...*sigh*) I look forward to your notes on her class as well. Thanks for the tips and links! :)

  2. Oh, Donea, there were SO many wonderful classes and it was a tough decision on the hour every hour. I need to scour the web for notes from all the classes I desperately wanted to attend but missed because there was another class I was even more desperate to attend. :)

  3. Ooh, I love this. Now I'll head back to read yesterdays post :)

  4. Great breakdown. Looks like I need to read yesterday's too.

  5. I think you took better notes than me. I'm going to have to look through yours. That was a great summery.

  6. I especially love the inclusion of THEME. There's a lot of advice to not touch "theme" or to write "thematically" at all in YA, but that's not TRUE. If your story only works within the situation in your story, and doesn't aim for any higher relateability, then people aren't going to like it :P


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