f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n: Strengths and Weaknesses Day 2 – The Big Stuff

f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Strengths and Weaknesses Day 2 – The Big Stuff

Long meeting, late post. We’re going to hit some of the core parts of writing today. These are on the story end. We’ll get to character and emotion tomorrow.

1. Inciting Incident – Think of a story as a big, heavy rock. You need that thing to get momentum. Are you able to come up with the lever or explosion or device to get the rock rolling? Or are you pushing it forward one painful step at a time?

2. Plot – Now that the rock is rolling…are you able to keep it going, keep it under control? Plot is the path that the story takes while hurtling forward.

3. Stakes – This is the big payoff, the reason why that rock started rolling in the first place. (And yes, I’ll be beating this rock metaphor to death today, thanks.) Can you make it compelling enough that we want to see what happens?

4. Conflict – A rock rolling toward a conclusion is pretty boring. But if you add the threat that it might derail, or large hills that it might not make it over, or obstacles in its path, the run becomes more interesting. Are you able to make it so the ending is always in question, so we never quite know what will happen?

5. Resolution – Can you wrap it up so we’re happy with how the rock ends up? (And I’m done.)

6. Pace – Most well-written stories ebb and flow to some degree. Action sequences need to feel fast. Waiting for Godot needs to feel slow. Can you control how your scenes and plot unwind to give a reader a sense of pace.

7. Syntax – How are your words arranged in your sentences? Do they flow and track? Better yet, do they flow and match the POV or situation?

8. Diction – What words are you using? Are you offering precision in your language without obfuscation? Do you know your intended audience? Do they match the POV and situation?

9. Theme – Is your story about something more than merely the unfolding of its plot? Do you lead readers to some recognition or insight? Is it consistent, subtle, and worth discussing? Do you let readers decide what your book means or do you tell them?

10. Structure – How does the story unfold? Are you able to bring the reader with you? Is there a defendable reason for all your structure choices? Are you able to see benefits of moving beyond merely chronological progression?
Continue to Day 3 of Evaluating Your Strengths and Weaknesses