Tuesday, March 31, 2009

a2+b2+c2= z

I was never very good with mathematics, but in writing the above makes perfect sense to me.

It's a formula. Very simply put down on paper. Somewhat complex in the calculations involved.

Formula writing always gets hit on, because to be blunt, it has been abused in the past. We all remember the wonderful stories that started with a spark, but then by the sixth or seventh book from the author, we knew exactly what was going to happen when. Nothing ever changed. The characters were the same. The setting might be in a exotic locale, but the author always focused on the same elements. They couldn't pull a new plot out of thin air if their life, or more importantly, their characters lives depended on it.

Eventually, the formula became stale.

Still, a formula can keep an author on track. It's how you use it that makes the difference. The formula, broken down to its most basic form, is like looking at a mish-mashed pile of building blocks. Each building block represents a chapter (or if you are as intricate as I am, a scene). You start with one and place another on top of it and the next on top of it until you have a teetering tower that is your story.

The way a formulated story can help any author is it always keeps the writer on track. You know how you'll open, you can see where your crises and plot twists will come in, you have a defined ending. All those building blocks I've used, swaying with every breath I take, still holds when I reach 'the end'.

It also keeps my logic moving because the story progresses orderly and the character's logic cements my blocks together.

A basic formula might look like this:

1.Introduce heroine, then hero with plot
2.Coming together. This is the big chapter for me, because I must set my characters on the plot's path.
3.Get the plot moving – add in a chapter in which the characters are thrust together and must learn to deal with each other. This may be a sex scene, but not necessarily.
4.Characterization is key in this block. The plot is planted so now my characters are set on the path.
5.Crisis is on the horizon.
7.Aftermath to the Crisis. Normally a sex scene does come in here for me.
8.HEA and look toward the future.

You can also see the formula I just laid out also coincides with the number of chapters I have in my story. It is, in effect, the backbone I will follow for my tale. This would be for a novella length story. The same thing can be done for a longer story. A writer would just have more building blocks, more internal conflict, external conflict, plot twists and spins and, yes, a black moment.

Just because an author chooses to use a formula shouldn't mean they always write the same story. I don't. I may stack my blocks the same way, but I always change my plot, individualize my characters and almost always change my setting (there are times when I recycle a certain setting, but that is most often in a sequel).

Your turn. Do you think formula writing is lazy? Would this method help you? What part of it would help you? Hurt you?

Until next week, cheers and happy writing,



Z(Aasiyah/Nolwynn) said...

Ah, building blocks! Reminds me of when my kids were babies and we tried as much as possible to build the biggest block tower. Sigh, they're too old for any kind of play now...

But, I digress. I never write without a formula at hand. But, that doesn't mean I have to write like other writers, or that every story has to be the same. You will see the progression of introduction-external conflict-internal conflict-black momemt-resolution-HEA in all my stories, but this is a very basic layout and which can be fitted to every story.

I'll be going more on my above mentioned method of plotting on Thursday.

T answer your question, no, it isn't lazy, as long as you're not writing the same thing with only a few cosmetic details to indicate this book is not that same one you released a little while ago.

I'm curious to see how others will reply.



Anonymous said...

As a new writer I would use the formula as I develop my story prior to writing it. The formula gives me something to build upon from one chapter to the next.

With that being said and being a new writer, I will be using the basic formula to develop my stories in the future.


Z(Aasiyah/Nolwynn) said...

You're absolutely right, Liena. The formula is only a guideline you follow as the continuing thread of your story.

With consecutive writing efforts, you'll probably find your own scope and cruising speed where formula is concerned, and you will come out with a formula that works and that also works for you.