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Structuring a story is a challenge that writers meet in one of two ways: either they outline diligently before they write so much as a sentence, OR: they fire up the word maker and see what happens. The former are called plotters. The latter people are called pantsers and I am one of them.
The difference between the groups lies in how comfortable a writer is with chaos. To write is to literally visit a foreign land. Plotters like to have an itinerary. They know where they will be in the morning, where they are eating lunch, etc. Pantsers wake up and walk out the door with nary a thought for the day. Plotters attempt to impose control. Pantsers attempt to maximize experience.
I view writing as a discovery process. It lets me explore the characters, their interactions, the plot and setting. It lets me feel the story. I’m frequently surprised by what occurs, which leads me to more character driven, organic stories. For plotters, the outline process performs the same function. The end result for both groups is a story that is thematically and narratively coherent.
For me a story begins with either a situation or an image. If I see an image then it is usually the climax. Seven men on a sailboat in the Pacific. One of them is trying to sabotage the boat, everyone knows it and everyone is on edge. If I have a situation, it is usually the inciting incident. A dying billionaire wants to read his obituary so he fakes his death.
Why my brain works like this is not something I think about. I believe it is churlish to be picky about how one receives inspiration. One does not find a ten dollar bill on the sidewalk and get upset it was not a twenty. Inspiration is a gift.
Next I figure out the bones of the story, a.k.a. structure. Authors use story structure because it is how people’s brains and hearts respond to narrative.
In the first act, the character sees a flaw in the normal world and ventures into the unknown to fix it. In the second act, the character faces myriad challenges to create a solution to the problem. In the third act, the character braces for a final showdown to win the prize and restore the normal world. This template covers everything from Star Wars to Liar Liar and all points in between.
Stop Looking to Others to Create a Life of Joy
by Renee Linnell,
Author of The Burn Zone: A Memoir
Originally published on Psych Central
I believe there is not enough dialogue out there about soul-sickness, especially among wealthy communities. We are taught to believe from a young age that once we have the perfect partner, house, car, children, and careers, we will be happy. And often times this is not the case; the happiness does not come. There is an insatiable need for more. Because there is no dialogue about this, most people think, I am the only one, something is wrong with me, or no one understands me. This leads to deep despair and usually a diagnosis of depression and medication.
I ruined my life searching for peace. I pushed away everyone and everything I loved. I allowed myself to be emotionally, psychologically, and sexually abused. I allowed myself to be brainwashed in seemingly unhealable ways. And what I finally discovered, after all of my searching, is that the peace and happiness for which I had been searching was inside of me all along. But, and this is a big but, I had to be shattered by life to find it. I had to be shattered to finally stop living a life that was not mine. I had to be shattered to finally decide that following my own heart and being true to myself and creating a life that brought me joy was more important than living a life to please other people. I had to be shattered to start questioning what the hell I had been doing and why the hell I had been doing it and to what point.
Why do we feel the need to say, “to death do us part” and bind ourselves to another person? Why do we ignore the intense fear that comes with this decision? How can we even know that this will be in our best interest or the other person’s for the rest of our lives? Many of us do it because everyone else does. Why do we forgo choosing work that we are born to do, work we are naturally skilled at doing, work we love, work that makes our hearts sing and instead choose a career we hate because it pays more? We do this because we are told to do it by our parents or our teachers, and because everyone else does. Why do we dress the way we dress and worship the way we worship and pick romantic partners the way we do? So often it is because we were told to do it this way, or because everyone else does. Often we don’t question any of this. I know I didn’t.
I believe the only way to true joy, to true bliss, to true freedom, is to begin the work of uncovering our real selves—to chip away at the parts of us that are false, the façade we created to please our families, the mask we built so the world would approve of us. Only when we are willing to stand tall in our own uniqueness, with our own idiosyncrasies, will we be able to do the work we came to do, to build the life we always dreamed of, to excel beyond our wildest dreams, and to live in true joy and abundance. When we finally tap into what we naturally are, we discover we already have the exact right skill set to become everything we have always secretly wanted to be.
We are all flawed, we are all damaged, and we are all beautiful. Each one of us is unique; there is no carbon copy. So how can we possibly follow what others are doing? How can what they are doing be right for us? We were born to blaze our own trails. We were all born with unique abilities and skill sets, with unique damage and unique wounds. I believe we are meant to use this combo to discover who we truly are and why we are truly here. Our wounds are not a mistake, they are given to us for a reason, they are Divine. In the healing of them we soften and we open, and we learn how to help others overcome similar damage. In our speaking about them and our owning of them, we encourage others to do the same and as more and more of us speak our Truth, we all eventually realize we are not alone. We have never been alone. We are surrounded by each other, our brother and sister humans, and we are here to support each other on this crazy amazing Earth Walk.
Yes, the decision to live this way is terrifying; but once we decide to do it, we feel the life force energy coursing through us again, we feel the blood pumping through our veins, we rediscover passion and the thrill of not knowing what tomorrow will bring. We are here for such a very short time; I simply cannot believe we were meant to spend that time in loveless relationships stressed about paying bills.
In my journey to wholeness I discovered that me just being me, dressing the way I want to dress, saying the things I want to say, doing the activities I love to do, putting myself first and making sure I am taken care of before I take care of others—living this way brought me so much joy that I began to radiate joy and light and love and kindness. I discovered a joyful me was a radiating me. A joyful me was a kind me. A joyful me was a patient and compassionate and forgiving me. After destroying myself and my life and all that I loved in order to become Enlightened, in order to become Saint-like, I finally realized that the key to my becoming Saint-like was just being me. When we create a life of joy we stop worrying about what others are doing or not doing. We stop pushing against. And instead we begin loving. And we add our light to the sum of light; we shift the consciousness of the planet from fear to love. What better use of our time here on earth than that?
About the Author:
Renee Linnell is the author of The Burn Zone: A Memoir (She Writes Press; October 2018). She is a serial entrepreneur who has founded and cofounded five companies and has an Executive Masters in Business Administration from New York University. Currently she is working on starting a publishing company to give people from diverse walks of life an opportunity to tell their stories. She divides her time between Colorado and Southern California. For more information, please visit https://reneelinnell.com and follow Renee on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
After being bit by the “I’m going to write a book” bug, I blazed through five months and 113,000 words to create two separate stories. All the time I spent was filled with excitement and enthusiasm, feeling my ‘muse’ on my shoulder cheering me to the finish line.
As it turned out, I realized I was in a race on a very long course, not a drag strip. Completing the first 2 eBooks was just the beginning. As I wrote those stories, each chapter I completed filled my head with new ideas and plot twists for the follow-on story.
After completing the second story to my second trilogy (that’s another by itself) I took the leap and decided to go the self-publish, print-on-demand route by placing my completed work on CreateSpace for all to hold if they so choose.
Unfortunately, while my artist and I struggled with a formatting issue on one of the covers, my ‘muse’ decided to take a nap as it were, without permission. I still had pages of notes and plotlines to work through on my fifth WIP, but my desire and motivation had left on the heels of my ‘muse’.
One thing I do to escape is to listen to music, and this is what I turned to in an attempt to coax my ‘muse’ to return. Thankfully I have an abundance of instrumental music to dive into, and so for several days, actually weeks, I would sit and listen, staring at the proverbial blank page of MS Word in the hopes something would jump out and stick.
My other trick I used in the past, and once again in this case, was rereading my previous work. After writing 3 individuals ‘chapters’, I create a new file allowing me to consolidate what I’ve completed. After this is done, I continue to add my completed pieces until I exceed my word count or page count, whichever comes first.
I’m happy to say, this works for me, but for others, I’m sure they have their own methods, tricks and secrets. In the end, it all comes down to one think, Keep Writing!
By Anthony Harrison
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