Simon Wood

SHELF LIFE: Anatomy Of A Story

Maybe it’s my engineering background that compels me to take things apart.  I treat my writing no differently.  Before I sat down to write my first novel, I picked out four novels in the same genre and I dissected them.  I had no background in creative writing and this seemed like the best approach for me.  I broke down each story into component parts: action and reaction scenes, characters, their entrances and exits, and their motivations, changes in points of view, the plots and subplots, etc.  I did this chapter by chapter.  I read a chapter and made my notes.  When I reached the end I had a complete guide on how each book was created.  I could look over my notes and see how the threads pulled together and how all the parts connected to make a seamless narrative.  This exercise gave me a lot of confidence when I started outlining my novel.  It forced me to think about all the components that make a good book and helped me avoid the common errors of a novice writer.
I still analyze my favorite books every time I begin a new book.  I find it puts me in the mood to write my story and sharpens my mind.  I use unabridged audio books now.  It allows me to make notes while I listen.
Writing is an art, but it’s not all instinctual.  There’s a mechanical side to good storytelling and to master it, you need to know how it works.

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