Is story structure formulaic?

story structure Oct 12, 2022

Where’s that sweet spot between “following the rules” and being creative?

I hear from a lot of writers, as you can imagine. And when I ask what holds them back the most, nine times out of ten the answer is: story structure. 

  • They have ideas, but don’t know how to shape them into plots. 
  • They have half-finished manuscripts abandoned in the middle because they just don’t know how to develop the idea they started out with.
  • Or they have finished drafts that even they realize don’t really add up to a satisfying or coherent story. 

This is all very fixable, of course. But here’s something fascinating: When writers do begin a serious exploration of story structure, they may soon feel taken aback. 

There’s so much technique involved. So many concepts! It starts to feel like a list of rules.

Their early attempts to learn and implement this new knowledge may not feel very creative at all. Resistance creeps in. The longing to keep doing what feels familiar is strong

So what’s going on here? Is story structure just paint by numbers? Don’t “real writers” just pour forth brilliant stories as part of their creative genius, without all this ticking off boxes of technique?

That’s the topic of this livestream. Even if you think you know what my conclusion will be, this is an important issue to explore. Our complicated feelings about talent versus technique are what keep so many writers stuck in the amateur zone. Have a listen and let me know what you think. 

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