Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Story Sculptor

This is what has gotten me behind on everything.

No, not the gargoyle! Or even the picture of the gargoyle. (Look at that constipated face being so cute as he tries to squeeze out a story.)

It's what he links to that has kept me busy ...

It's sort of a MadLibs-type spreadsheet for your novel's overview. Sort of.

Fill in your main character, his or her goals, adversary and several other tidbits into the spreadsheet. From those it assembles loglines (story summaries). By reading through them you get to see if your ideas flow and play nicely together. Like:

The naive, impetuous farm boy battles to stop the Empire against the ruthless, technology-loving Empire supporter who wants to crush the rebels.


On the verge of another season of moisture farming in the middle of nowhere the naive, impetuous farm boy enters the conflict between the Empire and the rebels; but when the Death Star is finally revealed, he must answer 'Is faith or technology stronger?' before Obi-Wan is killed.

Plus many more. Once you've tweaked your ideas, you can read through a breakdown of a novel with your elements inserted like this overview of Act 1:

Meet Luke from Tatooine, a planet beyond the edge of the Empire being his naive, impetuous self.

Luke's life is stalled facing another season of moisture farming in the middle of nowhere. It may even be a good life but he, in essence, is dying since he's stopped growing. Luke either doesn't recognize that he has a problem or is confused why technology and what he has accomplished so far leaves him discontent. His values have gotten him what he wanted so far. (But can't get him what he really needs.) Luke's life may feel like armor protecting him or a comfortable rut. (Explore at home, work or play.)

And a bajillion more that lay out your whole story right up to the final dramatic finish.

Story Sculptor might be helpful when planning a novel to keep you focused on the elements a good story needs. I've definitely found it useful for editing finished novels. The spreadsheet highlighted where the novel's weak areas were, let me know the person I thought was the villain really wasn't, and generally helped me pull wild ideas into line so it didn't read like a mashup of five different stories.

Give it a try. There's more explanation at the website. It's free for now. (Maybe free forever, with donations gratefully and graciously accepted :-) (And do encourage updates and expansions.)  It can look overwhelming at first, though I think the first page of the spreadsheet does a good job of directing you.

(It's for Numbers '09 (Mac and iPad) and Excel 2007 (and later) (PC and Mac).)

Let me know if you find it helpful. Also problems and improvements. All constructive feedback is welcome. :-)

The original idea came from  Save The Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You'll Ever Need by Blake Snyder. (Even he didn't believe it was the last since he wrote two sequels ;-)

What's wonderful about his book is the detailed breakdown of great stories (not just screenplays) he explores. As I read through his structure using "hero" and "villain" I really wanted a way to fill those in with a story's characters. Which gave me the idea for a spreadsheet. Then I stumbled across My Story Can Beat Up Your Story by Jeffrey Alan Schechter and The Anatomy of Story by John Truby which added more ways of viewing story structure. (The first two are very easy reads.)

Then I went kind of crazy adding more ideas in. And it seemed a shame not to share it. :-)

No comments: