Saturday, October 3, 2015

Internalizing Story Structure

Scott D. Parker

We talk a lot about story structure and tools of the writer's trade. Turns out, were not the only ones that see it. Case in point is what happened to me this week.

I was at a going-away lunch for three of my now former colleagues. I sat next to an engineer who, as it turns out, is a voracious reader. I had given him "The Box Maker," my first western as part of the new Triple Action Western imprint. We got to talking about books and the type of books he likes to read. I mentioned an experience I had a couple of years ago when I visited a few estate sales in the area. For three consecutive estate sales, the man of the house had had a man cave, for lack of a better word. It was the study/room, usually dark wood-paneled, with the recliner, that the man of the house would escape to whenever he needed the solitude. Those three houses all had one thing in common: an entire bookshelf full of Louis L'Amour novels. That was when I realized that L’Amour novels were just what men read back in the day. My co-worker and I both agreed that seem to be an equivalent now.

As part of that discussion, my engineer/coworker started talking about how L'Amour structured his novels. "You gotta have a man, usually a lone man, who is really good with the gun. There’s gotta be a bad guy the good guy was has fight. This has to be a love interest, a woman that the man loves. You have to set up the final showdown, usually right after the hero gets his chin bloodied by the bad guy. Then you have the final showdown."

As I sat there and listened to him say this, I realized he had internalized the basic three-act story structure. I think many other people do as well, but it was interesting to have it explained — in much more detail than I just did here — exactly what he (and us?) like to see in a novel. He said he hoped I found a character that clicked with readers and could write an entire series.


On a side note, we writers often wonder if free copies or cheap copies can actually turn out to be a good investment. For me, it’s a yes. A month ago, I gifted this same engineer the first Triple Action Western, "The Box Maker." He read it over a weekend. He really enjoyed it, so much so that on the following Monday, he made a joke about the twist ending. Ironically, it to me a few minutes to figure out what he was talking about because I had no context. Well, after the lunch on Thursday, he brought over his Kindle and showed me that latest Triple Action Western yarn, "The Agony of Love," was queued up in his Kindle. He pushed the “Buy” button and said, "You've just made some royalties."

He topped himself yesterday by letting me know he had purchased WADING INTO WAR and THE PHANTOM AUTOMOBILES. I thanked him very much. He said that he might get them all read this weekend! Certainly something that makes a writer feel good. An investment of $1 returned $6. I'll take that any day of the week.


I won’t be attending Bouchercon this year, but I’ll definitely be there in 2016. New Orleans is driving distance. Have fun, y’all.

1 comment:

Kristi said...

We will miss you at B'Con, Scott.