Saturday, June 29, 2013

Story Structure: Fasteners (MicroTension)

Hi, folks, time to wrap up my posts on story structure. This month, I am using analogies with building structural elements to shed some light on story structural elements. These analogies only go so far. I hope you find something useful. I'm going to compare micro tension to fasteners in buildings. Micro tension is what holds your book together.

Nails and screws are tiny metal spikes that are driven into wood. Bolts are metal pins inserted through wood. Cleats are angle iron pieces used to strengthen wood. You get the picture. Structures are fastened together with buckets of small pieces of metal. This week is all about the fasteners that hold your book together. 

Stories have many kinds of bits that hold them together. Without all these bits your story will fall apart. You are the master craftsperson and your decisions -- where to use fasteners and what fasteners to use -- will ultimately define your structure.

Here are some of the fasteners that you will use to make your structure hold together:

EMOTION -- This fastener is used for character. You must dig into what your character is feeling and shade your wording to capture that feeling exactly.  Many people are turning to THE EMOTION THESAURUS by Angela Ackerman and Betsy Puglisi to sharpen the emotional expressions of their characters.

LYRICISM -- This fastener is about the words. You can go over the top with it, but tiny touches of brilliant lines (you know the ones you jot down because you have never heard that thought expressed so well) stitch your book together. Your book needs the wordsmith in you to do better.

SENSORY -- This fastener is used especially in setting. You must make your readers feel. Every book has a sensory psyche that creates mood. Setting must engage all five senses, and you will turn yourself inside out trying to find the perfect vivid descriptors. Do it. Surpass yourself.

SOUL -- This fastener is used to shore up theme. Stories must say something. Tiny fiery thoughts embedded throughout your story will give it a soul. Yes, you challenge readers. Slap them. Wake them up. Infuse your story with immaterial bits. What are you circling?

SUBTEXT -- This is a dialogue fastener.You must create tension by having your characters say one thing but mean another. Look closely at dialogue. Are your characters saying things they should be thinking?  

SUFFERING -- This fastener is used to hinge character and plot. This isn't just about one more stupid thing happening to your character. You must do what rips out her heart, defeats her soul, breaks her spirit, ruins her life ... dang, writing is hard.

SURPRISE -- This is another plot fastener. It is all about finding the uncertain instead of the expected.  Turn corners that are unexpected. Contrast characters, moods, settings in interesting ways. This tension keeps the reader with you. Take our breath away, please...

TRANSCENDENCE -- This fastener is a big risk one and isn't found in every book. If it works, you will never be forgotten, If it doesn't work, it will wreck your whole book. It takes chutzpah to use this one. Well crafted foreshadowing leads to that moment when the reader is like: Did she really go there? It's shocking. Readers will freak out. Blog posts will fly. Think about those moments that you can never forget  in your reading experience and then let that into your creative blood and see what happens. Does your structure need this?

Be aware of the fasteners that hold your book together. Place each carefully with confidence. Donald Maass in his book FIRE IN THE FICTION has some good thoughts about micro tension that may be of some use to you. Whew, this was a big topic. I hope that you have enjoyed this series. Come back next week for my next series: Pitfalls in writing.

 Here is this week's doodle:  Abstract in watercolor




And finally a quote for your pocket.

I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars. Walt Whitman. 

29 comments:

Vijaya said...

I love this Molly. What a great breakdown. Donald Maass is really tops for teaching this.

MollyMom103 said...

I am glad you enjoyed it. Just some of my thoughts about micro tension mixed with what I have learned.

Karen Walker said...

Hi Molly, thanks for your visit on my blog today. Nice to "meet" you. If you want more comments, you might want to consider removing your "prove you're not a robot" widget.

MollyMom103 said...

Okay, Karen, I have removed said widget. Thanks for dropping by!

Munir said...

Love these pointers. I should let Lenny from Lenny's world read them. He is an awesome kid who wants to write.

Cherie Reich said...

Wonderful breakdown and I like your analogies! :)

MollyMom103 said...

Munir, thanks for dropping by. Share away.

MollyMom103 said...

Cherie, glad you found something helpful here.

J. A. Bennett said...

I'm focusing on honing my subtext right now, that's a tricky one. Great breakdown!

Kimberly said...

Great post on this topic. Keeps the pages turning. :) Thanks for stopping by my blog.

MollyMom103 said...

Hi, Kimberly! It's encouraging to see so many folks sharing their journey. Hope you found something helpful here. :)

Liza said...

Great stuff in here. So helpful! Thank you!

Pk Hrezo said...

Hi Molly! Great to meet you! Gosh I loved this! You nailed the important ones (pun intended.) And I gave it a tweet. :D

Rachel Schieffelbein said...

Great advice. :) And lovely painting. :)

MollyMom103 said...

Pk, Glad you found this useful. Thanks for the tweet.

Rachel, Glad you enjoyed the advice and the doodle.

Cherie Colyer said...

Thanks for the great advice :)

MollyMom103 said...

You are welcome, Cherie!

Donna Hole said...

These are cool analogies Molly. Loved the structure concepts :)

........dhole

Denise Covey said...

Molly, lovely to meet you. I will follow you after I post this comment. Story structure is crucial. I will be going back to read more of your posts.
Love the watercolour. You are very talented.

Denise

Andrea Franco-Cook said...

I can always use sage advice about writing. Although you didn't touch on anything that isn't already out there, it's helpful to get a refresher once in a while. Thanks for taking the time to list the elements of a good story. I'd forgotten a few of them.(: Also, like your blog am now a follower. See you round the sphere.

MollyMom103 said...

Hi, Donna: Glad that you found something useful. Thanks for dropping by!

MollyMom103 said...

Hi, Denise! Thanks for dropping by. Glad you enjoyed the doodle.

MollyMom103 said...

Hi Andrea, glad to bring good things to mind. Thanks for dropping by.

Rawknrobyn.blogspot.com said...

Thank you, Molly. These are important to keep in mind. I never thought of a book as having a soul, but I love that. I'm going to take that, along with chutzpahy, to my manuscript.

Be well. Happy holiday weekend.
xoRobyn

Patsy said...

I hadn't thought of elements holding the story together in such a literal way, but I think you have a point.

Michael Di Gesu said...

Hi, Molly,

Terrific post! Thanks for the structure fasteners. They certainly do make a story pop....

MollyMom103 said...

Hi, Robin, Glad you had a takeaway! I like this quote: Carlos Ruiz Zafón - "Every book has a soul, the soul of the person who wrote it and the soul of those who read it and dream about it."

MollyMom103 said...

Hi Patsy, I am a random concrete thinker and hence I tend to see things in a concrete sort of way. Glad you found it helpful.

MollyMom103 said...

Hi, Michael, I am way into making stories pop! Thanks for stopping by.