Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Story Structure from South Park

This has been ALL over social media in the past couple days, but it is really smart plotting advice from Matt Stone and Trey Parker, the creators of "South Park" and "Book of Mormon." Like... REALLY smart and simple advice, not just for film but also very much applicable to children's book writers. Take two minutes and watch!

If you've ever gotten a critique that your picture book "read like a series of lists" or "was more like a vignette/series of vignettes" . . .  or perhaps your novel was "too episodic" . . .  THIS is what those critiquers probably meant, and how to fix it.


Get More: www.mtvu.com


What do you think?

11 comments:

  1. Dionna10:24 AM

    I had an agent say she loved the voice of my novel, yet she diagnosed it as episodic. I had an editor love my PB voice, but she said the story was more of a vignette. And on it goes. So I've spent many a moons reading how to avoid this plot-fault clunker I must have clogging up my pros. Yet I still worry that I'm perpetuating the problem in yet my next project. Then comes this advice you so kindly shared from Matt & Trey. Oh man! What an amazing 2-minutes that sums up the fix so nicely. I feel like a hundred light bulbs just exploded at once inside my wee brain! Thanks oodles upon oodles, Jennifer, for sharing this bit of awesomeness!

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    1. Dionna10:30 AM

      P.S. I meant prose not pros.

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    2. other than the matt and trey video, what are some of your favorite resources for working on this problem?

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    3. I really BIRD BY BIRD, and something that stuck with me was the way Anne Lamott uses like color-coded cards for each beat/scene and actually lays them on a table/floor, to see in a very visual way how the story is progressing. That can be super-helpful I think!

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  2. Wow. That's great. Simple and useful advice from master storytellers.

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  3. Interesting, very interesting; thanks!

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  4. Reminded me of the difference between children writing a story and professional writers who write for children. Kids have a way of telling this-and-then-that stories that don't seem to congeal. If you have kids, you know what I mean.

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  5. i write in vignettes. it's hard and can be frustrating -- i'm horrific when it comes to transitions. but i'm getting there. at least i pray i am -- my editors and readers say i am, and that counts for something. :)

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  6. Sounds really interesting, but I can't access this video from the UK. Could someone summarise?

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    1. I'll try!

      Basically if you were to take cards and pin all your beats/scenes up on a bulletin board, if what links them is the word ...AND THEN... (like "this happens AND THEN this happens AND THEN this happens) -- you've got a series of vignettes, not a forward-moving story.

      Instead, if you can make each scene link up with either BUT or THEREFORE (as in: "This happens BUT this happens THEREFORE that happens) -- in other words, give cause-and-effect/consequences for each scene/beat, your story will have momentum.

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