Monday, December 6, 2010

Three Steps to a Great Story

Today we have another fabulous guest post by author Lori Sinclair, writing about her experiences for our column "Good Things Come from Threes." Enjoy!

Good Things Come From Threes - Three Steps to a Great Story

There is something almost magical about the number three. It has captured our attention as few other numbers have. From the time we are children and learn nursery rhymes such as Three Blind Mice, and The Three Little Pigs, to our adulthood when we are mesmerized by Larry, Curly, and Moe, or the latest trilogy at the box office, the number three is always a guiding presence. We hang out together like the Three Musketeers, and when someone is not welcome they feel like a third wheel.

Why is this?

I took a screenwriting class a few years ago. They taught that everything should be written in a strict Three-Act-Structure. This includes novels, short stories, screenplays, and even magazine and newspaper articles. For any story to be complete it has to have a very distinctive beginning, middle, and an end. The instructor felt that this was somehow connected to the Biblical meaning of the number three. It means “complete”, “entire”, or “finished”. Like a three leaf clover, God has three parts: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In all three parts, He is complete. We are somehow programmed or engrained that when the third piece of something comes around, then we are done. And, so it is with our writing as well.

The Beginning: An introduction. This should comprise 25% of your writing, or word allotment. This is where you set up your story, your characters, or your point of view for articles. To quote Kevin Costner from Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves, “and so it begins.”

The Middle: The biggest part of your writing. Like middle age, it is where all of the problems come in. This is where your conflict and drama takes place. It should comprise 50% of your writing, and will be the most intense. Throughout this time your readers should be on the edge of their seats for suspense pieces, make all of your arguments for documentaries and articles, or fall deeply and passionately in love for you romantics out there.

The End: Your conclusion. This will be the remaining 25% of your storyline. This is where you will tie up all of your loose ends. All of your arguments or points should be made, and the story brought to its natural conclusion. If you have a “happily ever after” ending, this is where that will be brought forth. For mysteries or thrillers, here you will reveal your culprits, or make your plot twists that keep everyone entranced. Ideally these will be in the last few pages of your story, but that depends on the ebb and flow of your writing. You also do not want a reader to be able to pick up your book from the shelf, flip to the very last page, and see how it all comes out. Waiting that long can drag out the suspense for too long. You run the risk of losing your reader’s attention. Keep your pace consistent with the story.

Of course, these are just estimates, but you get the point. Without all of these three pieces together, your writing will be incomplete at least, muddled and confused at worst.

“Good things come from threes” is a great theme for any writer. Breaking it down even more, with good plotting and writing, publication will follow, making the cycle complete.

Happy Writing!

Loretta Sinclair











Check out Lori Sinclair's latest Christmas book with a free copy!

Ho, Ho, Hey! What Just Happened?

Holiday enlightenment from an overworked Santa and his testy crew.

Sinclair Publishing, © 2010

1 comment:

  1. Interesitng. Good things come in threes. I admit I hadn't even though of checking to see if my stories are divided into three parts.

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