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Podcast notes:

This next series of podcasts is about structure.

When sitting down to write a story, make a clear decision about TONE and GENRE. Tone is more important of the two, since tone can vary so much in any given genre. Think about what emotion you are trying to evoke in the reader.

WHAT ANSWER ARE THE READERS TURNING THE PAGES FOR IN EACH SCENE. What question do they have in their minds that the keep reading to answer.

M. I. C. E. Quotient (?) Orson Scott Card – did not explain here

A story at its most basic structure is starting with a status quo, disrupting the status quo, then establishing the new status quo

These QUESTIONS, structurally-speaking, are so SO much bigger than chapter cliffhangers. It’s what’s going on at the CORE of the story…will they ever get together? Will he always be a coward? Is there really anything beyond the Silos, or is it a nuclear wasteland?

Make sure your conflict (and therefor plot) is centered around these central questions of where is my story coming from. Always be making progress on THAT. Anything that dwaddles or distracts from that central story source is a distraction that your readers will hate.

Combining more than one central question to a story can lead to very rich, interesting storytelling

“Ancillary Justice” by Anne Leckie – about an AI that used to be an entire ship and is now condensed down into one person with one single POV. Won the Hugo and Nebula.

“Emotional import” – not defined…look up

Why ask these questions when we’re talking about structure? Because you MUST know where your story is coming from and where it is going before you can build your outline.

This can be a process of making promises to yourself in terms of where this story is going to go, what things you’re going to cover, themes, events, jokes, scenarios, etc.

Mystery elements examples: clues, red herrings, reveal scenes, etc.

This is all true whether you;re a pantser or a plotter. you still have to know where your story is coming from, what promises you’re going to fulfill, the tone of your story.

Writing excercise:

Take a favorite piece of of media (but not something YOU created,) and reverse engineer an outline of main AND plots from it. What are the scenes, what does each scene do, and what are the promises/questions that are being made in those scenes. Mark down, too, what the character conflicts are.

Alien (1979)

1. Silent opening with credits, space, to planets, to ship, to interior…all quiet
2. Wake up and breakfast, talk about bonus
3. Figure out we’re not in earth system…where are we? // picked up signal, have to respond
4. Labored, deliberate landing sequnce, ship is fucked, needs repairs
5. Going outside to find the signal, see crash, (signal is warning) see alien pods, attacked by face hugger
6. Don’t come in, contaminate whole ship, doc let’s them in
7. Exam of face hugger, must cut it off, acid drips down below
8. Engineering scene: engine not starting yet
9. Ridley confronts doc in med bay examining creature, doc wants to be left alone, Ridley presses why Ash let it inside, he says he too the risk to save the man
10. Ash calls the captain; the face hugger is dead and off his face, don’t know where it is in the med bay, search sequence and Ridley finds it // it’s dead
11. Ridley confronts the captain about Ash’s decision to let it in, cap says he was a late replacement
12. Blasting off the planet, difficult but they get off
13. Scene in mess, 10 months to earth, group is tense
14. Guy is awake! He’s feeling okay, but hungry // eating in the mess, everyone is happy and talking, he starts choking, alien explodes from his chest
15. Looking for the alien, can’t find it // shoot his dead body out the airlock
16. On bridge, forming search teams, Ash developed a movement tracker
17. Waking corridors in threes with flashlights, tracker lights up, it’s in a locker!, but it’s the cat and Palmer let him go
18. Send palmer off by himself to go get the kitty, finds shed alien skin, sets are huge and industrial (not sure what the giant machines are), stops in water for a cooling drip, alien drops behind him unknowingly, cat watches him die
19. Back on bridge, Ripley says she saw it go into the air ducts and its huge. Plan is to use the air ducts with flame throwers to drive it to the airlock
20. Cap asking for guidance from Mother, who has no answers
21. Dallas in the air ducts, creepy sphincter openings that they’re opening and closing to trap alien, dark, crawling with his flame thrower, lose signal, then its running towards him, then jumps out and kills him
22. They found Dallas’s flame thrower, angry meeting what to do next, seal off creature bulkhead by bulkhead, Ash offers no useful info, which Ridley finds hard to believe
23. Riley with mother, discovers special order 937, which is that crew is expendable for the alien, which needs a sample. Ash locks her in the mess area and attacks her, tries to suffocate her, is bleeding milky blood, Parker hits him with a fire extinguisher, knocks his head off and reveals he’s an android
24. Turn ash back on for information, his directive was to bring back the organism, he calls it perfect, Ripley decides to blow up the ship and take their chances in the shuttle
25. Sends other two to get oxygen bottles, readies the shuttle – SEVEN MINUTES – hears Jones on a speaker
26. Other two are gathering extra o2, Ridley goes to look for Jones, jumps out and scares Riley, but she gets the cat, Alien finds the two of them attacks them, Riley hears them attacked over the radio…then silence. Finds them dead
27. POV shots of her running, then pulling levers on the bridge, setting up destruct sequence, complicated series of steps, then alarm of 10 minute countdown (5 mins to override)
28. Running back to shuttle, runs into alien, drops Jones, runs back to stop destruct but is too late
29. Running again through corridors back to shuttle, flashing lights make it hard to see, alien looks like corridor stuff, Jones is okay and shuttle door is clear, boards shuttle, one minute to destruct, launches shuttle, nostromo explodes
30. Quiet on the shuttle, let’s out Jones, gets undressed…alien hand flops out
31. Riley gets on an EV suit as the Alien stays in its hiding place, straps in a seat and flushes it out with smoke, then blows the airlock, it gets stuck, and then she blasts it with the shuttle thrusters
32. Last report by Ripley, reports everyone dead, signs off, and goes to sleep with Jones