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Structuring Your Novel Workbook: Hands-On Help for Building Strong and Successful Stories Paperback – November 15, 2014
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Reviewed by C J Singh
STRUCTURING YOUR NOVEL hooked me from the beginning: On page 2, K. M. Weiland writes, “Some experts’ approach to structure is mesmerizingly complex. John Truby’s must-read ‘The Anatomy of Story” presents twenty-two elements of story structure. Syd Field’s canonical ‘Screenplay’ (which is just as valuable for novelists as for screenwriters) breaks story down to the simpler three-act structure....The macro level of story structure I’ll be presenting in the following pages is a happy medium of the two.”
John Truby’s THE ANATOMY OF STORY is indeed a “must-read book.” (I posted my detailed review on amazon in 2007 and rank it as a contemporary classic.) Equally impressive is Syd Field’s “SCREENPLAY: The Foundations of Screenwriting” the pioneering book on the subject. (I posted my review on amazon, also, in 2007.) Recently, I have taught workshops using both books as texts. Truby's emphasis on creating characters with weaknesses, both psychological and moral, makes his book innovative and sophisticated.
Completing the exercises in SRUCTURING YOUR NOVEL WORKBOOK for my short stories. Particularly useful are the exercises on Structuring Scenes and Sequels. I am happy to say Weiland fully delivered the promise. Currently, I am using the WORKBOOK for structuring a 60,000- word Novel/Screenplay "Five Rivers."
A five-star book.
Feb 19, 2016
5 Secrets of Story Structure: How to Write a Novel That Stands Out
(Helping Writers Become Authors Book 6) Kindle Edition
by K. M. Weiland
Reviewed by C J Singh (Berkeley, California)
In the opening chapter, Weiland presents a 5-minute summary of her book “Structuring Your Novel” and the companion “Workbook.” A thoughtful refresher on the Inciting Incident, the three plot points and the two pinch points, cited from Syd Fields' pioneering Screenplay book.
The second chapter begins with the author's candid acknowledgement that this supplement clarifies the crucial concept of the Inciting Incident, which she now recognizes was explained rather vaguely: “What is important isn’t so much nailing down your Inciting Event to a specific place in the story, as it is presenting the Inciting Event at the optimal moment. Sometimes that means throwing the Inciting Event at readers right away, and sometimes that means holding off a bit.” Yes, that was vague. And the clarification in this supplement: “The most important thing that you can take away form this chapter is this: There isn’t just one moment that can be called ‘the inciting event.’ There are three.”
Weiland suggests that Inciting Events comprise the Hook -- "the opening scene, possibly even the first line"; the Turning Point --12% mark of the book – "the match is officially lit and held over the tinder of the conflict”; and the First Plot Point -- 25% mark. However, Weiland then chooses to discard the term the Turning Point and calls it the Inciting Event, presumably because all of the points—the plot as well as pinch points are also turning points.
The third chapter explains the Key Event and the First Plot Point as not the same but as “two distinct and important sides of the same coin.” She examples this by apt citations from Charles Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol” and other stories.
The fourth chapter explains the two Pinch Points: “To use your Pinch Points to their maximum potential, you need to make certain that they create distinct moments that influence every scene leading up to their subsequent Plot Points.” Weiland examples them by citations from Henry James’s classic novella “The Turn of the Screw” and other stories.
The fifth chapter explains the Midpoint: “After the reactive period in the First Half of the Second Act, the Midpoint happens and along with it the Moment of Truth. This is where everything changes for the protagonist… provides him with a new understanding of the conflict… suddenly he gets it.” Reactive no more, he starts acting.
The sixth chapter explains building up from the Third Plot Point (‘the darkest moment for your character’) to the Climactic Moment and Resolution. Weiland examples this by citing from Victor Hugo’s classic, “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” Frank Capra’s classic “It’s a Wonderful Life” and other stories.
Will this 60-page e-book help me in drafting my work-in-progress. Yes.
Five shining stars.
I found the book on outlining first, and that helped immensely. Then I discovered the book on structuring. More great help. When the workbooks came out, I got both on Kindle, and then in softcover. There's something organic and pleasing about using the softcover books. And following the exercises.
My novel writing has gotten much stronger and I will never try to write a short story or novel without following the exercises in these books. I don't think I'd know what to do without them. You just cannot go wrong with the author's advice, and I have really read just about everything on novel writing. Honestly. Five hundred Kindle books and shelves upon shelves of paperback and hardcover books.
These are simply the best.
The companion can stand alone - it has enough examples - or be used with her Structuring Your Novel book, which I highly recommend.
Renee Benzaim, Writer
Detective Annie Avants Series