Organic Architecture: Links to the Whole Series

Organic Architecture SpiralI want to thank everyone for reading my Organic Architecture Series! I realize this was a long series with lots of posts. The following are the links to all the different articles. Feel free to bookmark this page for easy reference!

Happy plotting, structuring, and designing, everyone!

Organic Architecture Series:

Classic Design and Arch Plot:

Alternative Plots:

Alternative Structures:

Designing Principle:

Full Bibliography for this Series:

Alderson, Martha. The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master. New York: Adams Media, 2011.
Anderson, Tobin. “Theories of Plot and Narrative.” Faculty Lecture. Vermont College of Fine Arts, Montpelier, VT. July 2008.
Bayerl, Katie. “Must We All Be Heroes? Crafting Alternatives to the Hero’s Journey in YA Fiction.” Critical Thesis. Vermont College of Fine Arts, 2009.
Bayerl, Katie. “Must We All Be Heroes? Crafting Alternatives to the Hero’s Journey in YA Fiction.” Graduate Lecture. Vermont College of Fine Arts, Montepelier, VT. July 2009.
Bechard, Margaret. “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Plot.” Faculty Lecture. Vermont College of Fine Arts, Montpelier, VT. Jan 2008.
Berg, Charles Ramirez. “A Taxonomy of Alternative Plots in Recent Films: Classifying the ‘Tarantino Effect.’” Film Criticism, Vol. 31, Issue 1-2, 5-57, 22 Sept 2006. Ebsco Host. Web. 6 May 2011.
Burroway, Janet. Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narative Craft. 8th Edition. New York: Longman, 2011.
Campbell, Joseph. The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Second Edition. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1968.
Campbell, Patty. “The Sand in the Oyster: Vetting the Verse Novel.” The Horn Book Magazine. Sept.-Oct.2004: 611-616.
Capetta, Amy Rose. “Can’t Fight This Feeling: Figuring out Catharsis and the Right One for Your Story.” Graduate Lecture. Vermont College of Fine Arts, Montepelier, VT. Jan 2012.
Carver, Renee. “Cumulative Tales Primary Lesson Plan.” Primary School. 9 Mar. 2009. Web. 31 Aug 2012.
Chapman, Harvey. “Not Your Typical Plot Diagram.” Novel Writing Help. 2008-2012. Web. 6 Oct. 2012.
Chea, Stephenson. “What’s the Difference Between Plot and Structure.” Associated Content. 16 Feb. 2010. Web. 7 May 2011.
Doan, Lisa. “Plot Structure: The Same Old Story Since Time Began?” Critical Essay. Vermont College of Fine Arts, 2006.
Field, Syd. Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting. Revised ed. New York: Delta, 2005.
Fletcher, Susan. “Structure as Genesis.” Faculty Lecture. Vermont College of Fine Arts, Montpelier, VT. July 2012.
Forster, E.M. Aspects of the Novel. New York: Harcourt Inc., 1927.
Gardner, John. The Art of Fiction. New York: Vintage Books, 1983.
Gulino, Paul. Screenwriting: The Sequence Approach. New York: Continuum, 2004.
Hauge, Michael. Writing Screenplays That Sell. New York: Collins Reference, 2001.
Hawes, Louise. “Desire Is the Cause of All Plot.” Faculty Lecture. Vermont College of Fine Arts, Montpelier, VT. July 2008.
Kalmar, Daphne. “The Short Story Cycle: A Sculptural Aesthetic.” Critical Thesis, Vermont College of Fine Arts, 2009.
Kaufman, Charlie. “Charlie Kaufman: BAFTA Screenwriting Lecture Transcript.” BAFTA Guru. British Academy of Film and Television Arts. 30 Sept. 2011. Web. 18 Aug. 2012.
Larios, Julie. “Once or Twice Upon a Time or Two: Thoughts on Revisionist Fairy Tales.” Faculty Lecture. Vermont College of Fine Arts, Montpelier, VT. Jan 2010.
Layne, Ron and Rick Lewis. “Plot, Theme, the Narrative Arc, and Narrative Patterns.” English and Humanities Department. Sandhill Community College. 11 Sept, 2009. Web. 7 May 2011.
Lefer, Diane. “Breaking the Rules of Story Structure.” Words Overflown by Stars. Ed. David Jauss, Cincinnati: Writer’s Digest Books, 2009. 62-69.
Marks, Dara. Inside Story: The Power of the Transformational Arc. Ojai: Three Mountain Press, 2007. McKee, Robert. Story: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting. New York: IT Books, 1997.
McManus, Barbara F. Tools for Analyzing Prose Fiction. College of New Rochelle, Oct. 1998. Web. 11 Sept. 2012.
Schmidt, Victoria Lynn. Story Structure Architect. Cincinnati: Writer’s Digest Books, 2005.
Sibson, Laura. “Structure Serving Story: A Discussion of Alternating Narrators in Today’s Fiction.” Graduate Lecture. Vermont College of Fine Arts, Montpelier, VT. July 2012.
Snyder, Blake. Save the Cat: The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need. Studio City: Michael Wiese Productions, 2005.
Tanaka, Shelley. “Books from Away: Considering Children’s Writers from Around the World.” Faculty Lecture. Vermont College of Fine Arts, Montpelier, VT. Jan 2010.
Tobias, Ron. Twenty Master Plots: And How to Build Them. Cincinnati: Writer’s Digest Books, 1993.
Truby, John. The Anatomy of Story: 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Story- teller. New York: Faber and Faber Inc., 2007.
TV Tropes. Three Act Structure. TV Tropes Foundation, 26 Dec. 2011. Web. 11. Sept. 2012.
Vogler, Christopher. The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers. 2nd Edition. Studio City: Michael Wiese Productions, 1998.
Williams, Stanley D. The Moral Premise. Studio City: Michael Wiese Productions, 2006.

Obsessed with Story Structure

Today you’re going to get a glimpse into my own personal kind of crazy. It turns out I’m slightly obsessed with story and novel structure.

Slightly is an understatement.

In fact, I’ve been thinking a lot about story structure lately. Partially because I’m going to be giving my VCFA graduate lecture on the topic in January, but also because I’m in the midst of structuring (or more accurately re-structuring) my current novel-in-progress.

After spending a lot of time this week color coding, cutting, pasting, and outlining, I created (and posted on Facebook and Twitter) the following  structure chart image:

A lot of people who saw this image were both fascinated and confounded. But mostly, they wanted to know what I’d done here and why. So, today’s post is going to be about how I created this chart and what exactly is going on in it.

DISCLAIMER: This process helps me. I’m a visual learner. This is something I’ve developed to help me get a big picture look at my novel. I have no idea if it will be helpful to anyone else. If this all sounds like gibberish to you – then it probably is!

Step One: Write the First Draft

Some people like to think about structure before they begin their novel. If you are one of those people – awesome! I’m not. I usually have no clue where my novel is going and I let my characters take me for a ride to find out. But if you find any of the following good to think about while you write your first draft – fantastic! But don’t worry if you don’t want to think about structure till draft two.

Step Two: Broad Strokes and Color Coding

Once I have a draft, I like to type up the whole novel based on major scenes and events. Because my current WIP is in vignettes, I went a step farther and typed up each vignette. In each strip, I noted four pieces of information. First, the POV of the character (my novel is in dual POV). Second, the title of the vignette so I can find it later when I revise. Third, the location of the scene. And fourth, the major action and/or emotion of the scene.

After I typed all this up I proceeded to add color coding. This included colors for the major plot line, all the sub-plots, flashbacks, each narrator, etc. The amount of colors always depends on the complexity of the book. This book has a lot going on that I wanted to track…hence the thirteen different colors.

Step Three: Cut, Paste, and Re-Arrange

At this point, the process becomes a bit like a craft project. I cut out each vignette strip and played the re-arrange game. I looked for patterns, high points, low points, momentum, pacing, etc. I started to play around with the best way to construct this story. I asked myself questions like: Do I start with flashbacks? When do I get to X-reveal. Is there too much dead time between X-reveal and the midpoint? What can I cut out completely? Etc. This part takes a lot of time for me. I spend hours moving around and re-arranging the pieces.

Step Four: Start Graphing

I got out my graph paper and went to town!

For this structure chart I decided to let one graph-paper square equal one vignette. However, I’ve done this process with a non-vignette novel before, and I used page numbers (i.e. one square equals one page, or five pages, etc.).

There were four things I wanted to look at with my graphs and they were:

Three Act Structure:

This top graph is classic three-act structure.

  • Blue = Act One
  • Orange = Act Two
  • Green = Act Three

The yellow boxes denote major plot points, or moments that shift the energy of the story in an important way. In the text along the top I’ve outlined (roughly) the major beats of The Hero’s Journey structure (i.e. the call to action, threshold, midpoint, crisis, etc.). This particular book doesn’t really fit into three-act/hero’s journey structure nicely, but I was curious to see where the major beats fell.

The Major Relationship:

This second graph is a more accurate image of my novel. It’s a pattern that arose from the novel itself. Since my book is primarily a romance story, I see this chart as the push and pull of that relationship.  The novel is in dual POV, so the pink lines are my female character, and the blue lines are my male character. The red is where the two character’s overlap/interact. This helps me to see the motion and interaction of the major relationship of the story.

Chapters and Flashbacks:

This is my novel broken down chapter by chapter. The red is (again) the interaction between my protagonists. The yellow, however, is flashbacks. This is something I’m struggling with in the novel (when and where do I reveal background information). This allows me to see where the flashbacks are clumped as I move into revision.

Sub-Plots and Secondary Characters:

And lastly, this chart shows subplots and secondary characters. This allows me to see if a character disappears from the story for a hundred pages, or if I introduce a secondary character too late, etc.

Putting it Together…

I drew all four graphs – one above the other – so that I could use the same unit of measurement throughout. This way I can compare the charts to each other. If there’s a lull in the story I can look through the graphs and see why (maybe I’m developing a sub plot, or there’s way too many flashbacks clumped together). I can look at the big picture and see patterns, or pacing, or trouble areas (like it takes way too long to get into act two right now).  Charting like this really helps me to see the current architecture of the draft and what to be aware of when I revise.

Feel free to try this process (and develop it to meet your concerns and needs). You can create a chart for anything and color code based on what you need to pay attention to (action moments, time, dialog, character arch, whatever!). There’s no right or wrong way to do this. It’s just a tool to help see the big picture.

Let me know if you have questions. I realize this may be written in a form of geek-structure-speak that only I can understand, so let me know if there’s anything you want me to clarify. Happy charting!