A Story Primer

Linda Sue Park     Pull out your English grammar book because it’s time to review story structure. Yay, yippie, I eat this stuff up! 🙂 Here we go…

     Speaking at the SCBWI-WI fall retreal, Newbery Award winner Linda Sue Park admits that she doesn’t really know her writing process. She says she reads so much that plot, for her, is innate; automatic. And she’s read enough and written enough to know good work when she sees it.

     So first, a bit on structure or, as Linda puts it, how to tell the story. There’s macro-structure, that is, the method used to tell the story; through letters (think C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters), poetry, etc. Then there’s micro-structure, that is, point of view, first or third person, past or present tense, etc. Linda makes a strong case against first person present (I run away) because it’s meant to showcase repetitive or recurring action, whereas third person is the traditional method of storytelling and one she calls the hallmark of good writing.

     Next, Linda gave great advice on voice. She finds it helpful to think of her narrator as a person instead of a disembodied voice with a motive to tell the story. That doesn’t mean the narrator must be reliable nor serious; (s)he could be comical or ironic. Linda nails this down before starting.

     Lastly, Linda spoke of scenes, defined as progress toward the quest or impediments blocking the way. Writing them in a sentence helps narrow them. Revisions are your friend.

     Honestly, I could have listened to her talk about story structure and writing for hours. Her writing is clear evidence that she knows her craft.

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