(Craft) The First Fiction Box: The Setup

In my last post on the craft of fiction-writing, I discussed structuring your story into four parts or four boxes.  For strong story structure, we must put into each box only those story elements that go into that box. To put something in a box that doesn’t belong in that box will weaken your story.

Today, we are going to take a closer look at the first box called the Setup Box. In this box, you will need to place everything that contributes to setting up your story for the reader.  For example, in this first box, you will need to put the following pieces of your story puzzle:

  • The foreshadowing of the antagonist or the antagonistic force;
  • The stakes of the story; in other words, what your protagonist has to lose if she doesn’t reach her goal;
  • The creation of reader empathy for your character.

The setup is just that: the SET UP.  It is not the beginning of your plot. The beginning of your plot occurs at the First Plot Point which happens at the point you have completely filled Box One and are ready to start filling Box Two. This is where your protagonist experiences the transition from her ordinary life to a life turned upside down.

Next time, we’ll take a look at what goes into Box Two of your story.  For a more in-depth study of this topic, check out Larry Brooks’s excellent book, STORY ENGINEERING.

Copyright 2013 by Dr. MaryAnn Diorio. All Rights Reserved.

(Craft) Good Reasons to Outline Your Novel

decisionWhen I face a major decision, I make a list of pros and cons on a sheet of paper. Then, I study my list to determine a course of action. This procedure applies to fiction writing as well. 

Today, I’d like to make a list of some good reasons for outlining your novel. After you read the list, you can decide for yourself whether or not you think it will be beneficial to you to outline your next story before you write it.

  • Structural Sanity.  By this I mean that your story will make sense. Your inciting incident and major plot points will occur at the right places. Your story will have balance and be well-paced. Your middle won’t sag, and your ending will be satisfactory.
  • Character Continuity. By this I mean that your story will allot the correct number of scenes to each point of view (POV) character. In an outline, you can readily tell if you have assigned too many scenes to a lesser POV character and not enough to your main POV character.
  • Foreshadowing Finesse. If you’ve ever written a story without an outline, you know what it’s like to go back and insert foreshadowing. Almost impossible. If not impossible, definitely a crazy-maker. When you outline before writing your story, however, you can deftly manoeuver your foreshadowing for logical motivation and maximum impact.

These are only a few good reasons to outline your story before you write it.  What other reasons can you think of?
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