Tag Archives: plotting

The Revision Project


Heaven knows it was useful to me to update my page that gathers all the blogs for the Revision Project. Just a few holes here and there! And maybe someday I’ll get that counting thing straight …

For those of you following that, it may help you catch some you missed, and also explained some apparent non sequiturs.


Revision 06.1.1: The True Story and the Good One


When you’ve finished a draft, you may feel like you have captured the real essence of the characters, their world, their lives, their adventures–

But it’s a little too easy on them.

If your main problem in feedback on your manuscripts is that you aren’t being mean enough to your characters, that your story lacks drama because they triumph too easily, that the tension and interest would be higher if things were rougher on them — you probably need to listen.

Yes, I and others sometimes express weariness with plots where everything always goes wrong for the protagonist, chapter after chapter, until suddenly at the end everything can be wound up and reversed. The world isn’t really full of villains and fools just waiting to do someone dirt as soon as they are declared a protagonist or the close attachment of one, and we find it difficult to believe a world where that’s how they all act. Things have to work both ways, but right now in the story you know is right, things don’t go wrong enough or often enough.

What you need to do is to preserve this version. Burn a copy on CDR and print it out in hardcopy. Now you have, forever, the True Story. This is the real history of these people and this place.

You will now put aside this true history, and write the fictionalized version. This is the one in which you can make any changes in, do all sorts of things to your poor leads, and torque it up as far higher than reality as you like.

There — wasn’t that liberating? You have the true story safe. Let’s go write the good one that will sell.

Revision 04.3 — Speculative Fiction Story Templates


These are the templates.
These are the Themes or Motifs. These are the Categories.
These are Mechanisms. These are Settings.

You may notice that many of the examples are very early specfi. I spent 2008 and most of 2009 reading almost nothing written after 1912. Finding early versions often made the template clearer because the author wasn’t trying to disguise it.

I. Science Surge: inventors, mad science, new technology in our society or the indistinguishable near future: Read the rest of this entry

Revision 04.2 — Templates: Over 6000 Years and Still Going Strong


Templates are underlying structures of kinds of invented story, whatever genre or media they may be created in.

Templates are not formulas, so wipe “formula fiction” right out of your frontal lobes. Fiction formulas are laid down by editors, often rather arbitrarily, and may apply only to one publisher, not even the whole industry.

Templates are universal and human. They arise from the audience, and date back before writing, though we can only see them as far back as they are written down, whether the myths of Ishtar harrowing Hell or Isis seeking a dead mate’s resurrection, or the heroic quest of Gilgamesh for eternal life, or the wanderings of Odysseus, or the wars of the Rg Veda.

On the other hand, at least one template was founded as recently as the 1950s. Collecting and sorting them has been a hobby of mine for some years, based in a chance remark of a workshopper and my broad basis in myth, epic, folk tale, and fairy tales.

Not every story you write will fit a template, but most will because you are as human as anyone else, and as much imbedded in the culture of fiction. If your story is close to a template, it will be stronger if you move either onto the template, fulfilling its satisfactions, or move well away so you don’t look like you just missed the boat.

However, you may find that outside of litfi you can’t avoid templates. Many genres are built on, not just a single template, but a single sub-template, like mysteries are basically the Mystery Template.

Templates of Fiction
These are the Templates.
These are the Themes or Motifs. These are the Categories.
These are Mechanisms. These are Settings.

Read the rest of this entry