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Story Structure Architect

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Story Structure Architect

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Story Structure Architect
A Writer's Guide to Building Dramatic Situations & Compelling Characters
By Victoria Lynn Schmidt, Ph.D.
Writer's Digest Books, 2005
ISBN: 1-58297-325-3

Reviewed by Auggie Moore - Posted September 21, 2012

The backbone, the very foundation of a story, is its plot. In Story Structure Architect, Victoria Lynn Schmidt explores plotting, character development, and scene construction. She shows how writing fiction is similar to constructing a building. First you need a blueprint, then you build the basic structure, and then fill in all the 'holes.'

Schmidt shows how by using any one of eleven 'master' plot structures you can adroitly craft a dynamic novel or other work of fiction. Before delving into the master plot structures, Schmidt provides guidance in drafting (mapping out) your basic story plan. In addition she provides an overview of the various genres, the five basic dramatic thoughtlines (will your hero succeed or fail), and six fundamental forms of conflict that you can use to move your story forward. She then explores the eleven master structures and provides examples of their use. This is follewed by a detailed discussion of the fifty-five dramatic situations that recur in fiction. She illustrates how to decide which situations are best suited for your story, and how to incorporate them into your story. Finally, Schmidt concludes this informative book with guidance on the types of research you will need to flesh out your story.

Throughout this text, Schmidt has included lists of questions that not only make you think about the material under discussion, but which also help you to internalize and assimilate the information. More important, these questions will help you decide what aspects of the book you want to use in your own work, and how best to incorporate the information learned into your own writing. In addition, she has also included a plethora of examples that greatly enhance and illustrate the various topics covered in the text.

Story Structure Architect is one of the best books that I've come across on the fundamentals of plotting. This is not a 'how to write a novel' book. Rather, it is a guidebook that teaches you how to map out your story. From this architectural plan, you can then move onto the actual task of writing your novel. Schmidt also provides a wealth of information and insights on both western and non-western plot structures, and the fundamentals of how to create forceful and memorable characters. Best of all, this book will help you to craft vibrant scenes that will enliven your story and propel it toward its ending. I highly recommend this book to writers of every ilk, from novelist and screenwriters to short fiction writers and even to nonfiction writers who will find Schmidt's insights into mapping out a project to be invaluable. In short, this is an indispensable reference book on plotting.

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