Improving My Story Structure Skills

I believe strongly in the concept of continuous improvement. I constantly ask myself if how I do something is the most effective way to do it, and I pursue and practice new methods to discover if they will make my work better. My current compulsion is to improve my skill at story structure. While I have studied story structure before, and learned much, I am reviewing my notes and reading more articles and books about the subject. Each time I study the topic, my understanding deepens and my skills sharpen.

I instinctively follow the rules (yes, the rules I often hear people claim they do not have to follow). I don’t want to write instinctively. Those instinctive, automatic writing skills are not well tuned. The two stories I am currently developing are at a perfect point for practicing story structure.

One story is book five of my work-in-progress series. This story has already been told a few times (drafts), therefore I know a lot about it. Those previous drafts were not well structured.

I set up a framework of acts divided by plot points at the 25% and 75% marks, a midpoint at the 50% mark, and punctuated with pinch points in the middle of the second and third quarters. With a little imagineering, I could see what parts of the story fell on each of the structural elements.

I saw flaws. For example, the darkest moment, when the protagonist "goes Rambo" did not occur in the correct spot as measured by story percentage. This moment needs to be at the plot point that begins the third act. I also realized the plot point that begins the second act is the biting scene (the protagonist’s Dragon bites him). This is when we go from the normal world to the action at the core of the story. Moreover, I now understand the first and second halves of the second act and how the protagonist’s passive response changes into action.

The second story is a novella about the origin of the aliens in the book series. The full story is in my head (it is part of the back story for the book series) and I created an outline for it last summer. By using the same framework as described above, I am re-imagining and re-outlining the story to improve its structure.

This activity has enhanced my stories, and more importantly, I am having fun. What are you doing to advance your skills while having fun?
Simplified Story Structure Diagram

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