I’m getting ready to read Save The Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need in yet another attempt to understand novel structure. Then I’ll add it to my library of books that has had me trudging along The Hero’s Journey, climbing Freytag’s Triangle, breaking out in hives with my breakout novel, squeezing seven acts into a three-act structure and posturing with Plato’s Poetics. And, just yesterday, I read the article “Story Trumps Structure” by Steven James in the February 2011 Writer’s Digest (yes, I’m a little behind) which made me question everything that’s gone before.
If nothing else, all this reading (and a few bloody critiques) has clarified (like raw sewage) what not to do in my novels. So, if you want your novel to break down and burn like a Ford Pinto, I’ll share my “not to dos” with you.
Jean Reidy’s Writing the *Breakdown* Novel:
1. Think of every possible funny, sad or serious event from your life or imagination that might remotely relate to your premise. Then crowbar them ALL into your story, such that your trajectory is masked by a plethora of overwritten scenes serving no semblance of a plot.
2. Next, study trajectory and raising the stakes. Then create a new torpedo of a story that layers crisis after crisis and races to the finish with no emotional or logical resonance.
3. Then, read about turning a story on its head. Do so with your next novel so much so that you create a completely loathsome main character and a story so flush with subplots that the theme evolves into something about ice skating and Moonies.
4. Finally, try a retelling of a classic story, following a mapped out structure. But make sure that in your effort to inform the old story, you crowbar in events from imagination and life, create overwrought crises that your loathsome characters can not recover from and rocket right to a predictable finish all while losing (and perhaps insulting) the original framework of a beloved classic tale.
So there you have it.
I’m hoping Save the Cat! can save me.