Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Storytelling formula

I've got this formula I picked up from a writing class. The instructor called it the Three Act Structure and it wasn't new to him. I'm sure it's not new to any of you either. Maybe not in name, but I think we all recognize it when it's broken down for us. It's been around as long as storytelling. You can lay it across almost every epic story with very little adjustment needed to get a good fit.

I took the formula and plugged it into my good friend and colleague, MS Excel, and that works great for me when I use it. I create columns for each character so I can put them all through the grid and maintain a consistent timeline and set of character arcs. Trouble is, as I said, when I use it. It's not my first stop with all stories but it probably should be. Some stories write themselves from the initial inspiration right through to the ending, but others take a little coaxing. The ones that don't come as easily are the ones most likely to get the spreadsheet treatment. Those and the ones I just want to squeeze through to see if I have enough to go on.

This week I compared my submissions against the formua spreadsheet and (surprise, surprise) the stories receiving the Three Act treatment were more likely to sell. I should learn a lesson then, right?

Only my biggest sellers were stories that came more organically and didn't get the treatment, at least not before being written. Sigh.

Conclusion? Some stories are just easier to write whether the idea is better, the subject matter more familiar, or the Muses simply more gracious that day. The dates the stories were written also played a part with later pieces doing better overall simply because I'm getting better at the craft. Hopefully, anyway, right?

So the storytelling formula is still great for creating an outline but is it the more successful and lucrative way to go for one William R.D. Wood?

The jury is still out.

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