I am pretty sure that you don't want to revisit the same concepts you have learned before about narrative plots and story structure. Instead, you may be expecting to read about the practicality of these concepts applied to a real-life example. There are plenty of resources out there, including extensive books and free video tutorials as well as detailed information in writing forums. Hence, there is no need for me to re-write once again all of these concepts. Nevertheless, if you have never learned about story structure before, I am going to direct you to a document written by Chris Huntley. This document not only can familiarize you with the most recognized authors on the field but it also will help you understand how complex, particular and sometimes even antagonistic the different story structure paradigms can be. I have read all the books Chris Huntley analyzes, but I think I wouldn't do a better job than his commentary on each of these books. He compares other paradigms against his own, the so-called "Dramatica" paradigm. Even if you have never heard of it, just follow along with his thoughts. After all, any discerning criteria are needed to do such analysis anyway and his point of view should be as good as any other. Here is the link to the document:http://dramatica.com/resources/assets/Dramatica_paradigms-0707.pdf
The checking test
After learning about plot creation and story structure from books and tutorials, you probably have a lot of information in your mind and you may be wondering what is the best approach or the most efficient theory. Some authors claim that in order to write a good story you must follow their proven method. Although they have the right to say whatever they want, it is for you to discern if, in fact, there is no other way to write a good story, but by following their approaches.
Something that I found very useful to figure out how valid a specific theory is, either if it tries to rule over plot creation, story structure or any other aspect of the writing process, is just checking it against some reputed good books. I must recognize that even if these theories fail the test, they may still be useful to some degree. You have to find the right occasion when they work perfectly. They may become handy for certain scenes of your story and not necessarily for all of them.
Once, I read a book that tried to state that a story has to be woven by an interrupted sequence of conflict-action-result. Presumably, it took a long time for the author to write and publish the book. It took just a few minutes for his theory to fail my checking test. A very good story like Crime and Punishment is not threaded like that at all. I definitely could not take it as a universal method for good writing. However, this theory may be useful in a particular scene where action is the key.
There may be some light even in the darkest idea
I would say that you should take everything with wariness. Do not believe everything that "experts" say, including my own theories, of course. Be critical with any input information that comes to you and mostly be critical with yourself. Be open to new information, though; who knows what information will turn out great for your writing. Never discard a theory even if it fails the checking test; just archive it for a suitable occasion. Choose with wisdom; there may be some light even in the darkest idea.
I remember a time when my relationship with the author of a "how-to" book began really badly. It was hate at first sight. One of the premises on which he based his theory, explained in the preface, was subjective. It was a sort of personal projection or the verbalization of a prejudice against the kind of authors he does not like. I was about to let the book pass, but I recalled my own advice. I read the entire 200-page book biting my tongue, but it was worth it. Despite the unrealistic content of it, there was one idea that was remarkably clever. I took that idea and applied it to my writing.
Checking test in action.
Be careful with gurus! After going through an extended list of accomplishments of her guest, a very popular podcaster asked him:
"Can we just write lots of paragraphs with no one talking to each other?"
"That would be wonderful if you didn't want to sell" -answered the guru.
Immediately, that made me think of Borges, Schwob, Broch, and Plutarch among others. I could not help but think about how controversial this guru's opinion was. Although we can't affirm that none of these authors needed the money, we can say for sure that the absence of dialogue did not stop them from creating remarkable literature work. Certainly, as for the number of copies sold, any of these authors have widely surpassed the guru's sales. What is wrong with his opinion? A limited view of the literature world, perhaps? Maybe, he knows Stephen King, but he has never read anything written by Borges or "Parallel Lives" by Plutarch. Maybe, the inaccuracy of his thought is due to a myopic sense of pragmatism. Who knows! Just be careful. Do not accept everything without analysis, even what I am saying here.
Since I have noticed that every book I read, even the bad ones, contributes to my development as a writer, I keep my approach as open as possible. Another reason to keep an elastic structure is due to my personal method of writing. I read all I can before I write the actual first page of the book. The books I read are related to the many subjects involved in my story as I work on the plot of it. Sometimes, new information has caused me to improve the plot significantly with the consequent structure change. On some occasions, a new book has suggested new points of view over my own story, more interesting or more adjusted with the historical period of the novel. In one specific time, I misunderstood an entire tv series season but I discovered a new possible kind of narrator. The reading of some psychological assays made me consider adding some scenes. Careful analysis of some personal experiences has occasionally led to a deeper exposure of a character through a dramatic episode or a subtle manifestation of his inner-self. Some of these examples do not occur without modification of the initial plot. As you may see now, my writing process is completely dynamic, so it can't be restrained by a rigid and predetermined structure.
From this and previous posts ("The Idea" for example), it may be clear for you that a very important aspect of my writing method is that I keep modifying the plot of my story by adding scenes, characters or events as the story gets more coherent. I am convinced about the need for an inflection point, also called "plot point", soon enough so the reader gets interested in the story. If my book were planned to have a fixed number of pages, it would be easier for me to adjust my story to the Syd Field paradigm, for example. Since the story keeps growing, this is not that simple. If my book ends up having 600 pages and I set my inflection point around page 200, the chances that my reader gets bored before reaching that inflection point is higher than if he were reading a shorter book. In order to solve that problem, I have developed my own sort of paradigm. I repeat the book structure inside of these first 200 pages in a subtle way.
As the story evolves and it gets longer, I don't overwrite the previous plot, though. I keep a diary of the plot, so to say. I do not delete anything. This is because I may need an old idea that only after several modifications of the plot does it becomes useful again. Needless to say that I end up with a very long document. Despite the length, this is a sort of procedural modeling in which I can always go back to a previous state and regain a part of it at any time.
You may add this article to all the theories you are learning from other sources. I hope these lines could contribute to your writing and offer you just another possibility to be considered.
See you in the next blog post and remember... if you can dream of it, you can do it.