Robert Robinson's Reviews > Story Trumps Structure: How to Write Unforgettable Fiction by Breaking the Rules

Story Trumps Structure by Steven James
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it was amazing

I’m currently writing my tenth novel, and have read several dozen writing books, most of which were helpful. Some were excellent. I understand the concepts of plot, three-act structure, archetypes, motifs, symbolism, etc. But those are analytical terms, useful for studying a work of fiction AFTER it’s been written. The author recommends that you break the rules espoused in many of these books. Not ALL the rules. Just some of the “most important” ones.

For example (I’m paraphrasing):

OUTLINE RULE: You must create a detailed outline before you begin to write, otherwise you’ll end up wasting time and throwing away a lot of pages.
TRUTH: You’ll waste time writing the outline, and then waste more time rewriting the outline when your characters want to take the story in directions you couldn’t anticipated.

THREE-ACT RULE: Your story must have three acts with specific plot points.
TRUTH: If you force your characters to stay within rigid boundaries, you may well end up with a cookie-cutter story that lacks momentum.

HOOK RULE: You must “hook” readers by blowing them away with your first sentence/paragraph/page or you will lose them.
TRUTH: You do need to “hook” readers early on—that much is true. However, if your first chapter explodes with over-the-top excitement, Chapter 2 may seem like a dud in comparison, and you’ll likely lose readers by Chapter 3. Instead, the tension must continually build from the first sentence to the climax.

THEME RULE: You must determine the theme of your story before you start writing. What’s it about? What’s the point you’re trying to make?
TRUTH: If your story can be boiled down to one or two sentences, why write the book?

Like a good novel, the value of this book cannot be condensed into a few paragraphs. I urge you to read every page and let it soak in, and then follow the author’s advice and create your story organically. Then you can analyze the structure if you like—after it’s written.
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Started Reading
December 21, 2014 – Finished Reading
December 28, 2014 – Shelved

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