Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Story Structure--The Roller Coaster Ride

Guess what I learned this weekend during my reading? The three act story structure is NOT the only way to plot your novel. I guess I never really thought about it before reading this book, Story Structure Architect by Victoria Lynn Schmidt. It was a free download for my Kindle a month or two ago, but I'm just getting around to reading it.

Here's what caught my eye yesterday:
"Instead of having one major Climax at the end of the story, as with Traditional Structure, this structure has several Climaxes throughout the story. Each one builds upon the previous one, holding the reader in its thrall until the very end. Slowly the train climbs up the hill. It reaches the peak and then dives toward the ground where it starts uphill once again."
 SENDEK is more like a roller coaster than a three act play. Some of the peaks and dips are different levels and each one moves the reader (and the characters) closer to the final Climax. This might not seem like a revelation to anyone else, but it was a huge relief to me. I can stop trying to make SENDEK fit this model that it doesn't fit. It's okay to have a different structure.

This book actually outlines 11 different plot structures. I've learned that the Roller Coaster is my main structure, but I also have a sub-structure based on the Romance structure.

Another thought I had this weekend? I might change Talia's eye color. Too many books are coming out with violet eyed people. It just isn't cool. The only problem is then I'd have to tweak the whole necklace thing I've got going on.

Talia has this amethyst necklace that her mother gave her because it matched her eyes. She fiddles with it every time she's nervous, sad, angry, whatever. It's the one thing that means something to her that she keeps with her all the time. Until she loses it on one of those roller coaster dips.

At the end of the story Landry gives her a new one. He notices every time she reaches for it and it isn't there, but he never says anything. Then at the right time he presents her with a new one that has some added symbolism. Yeah, it's one of my most "AWE" moments.

Somehow I think it would lose something if its just a random necklace. Not to the readers because they won't know the difference, but to me.

What do you think? Should I change her eye color because of the crazy amount of violet eyed characters flooding the market?


  1. It's up to you. If her eyes are violet for a reason I would say no, but if her eyes could be any other color just as easily and you feel it helps go for it.

  2. I really hate it when that happens. You could do several things. You could change her eyes to blue, keep the necklace things, only it's sapphires instead, or you could keep it as is.

    Or you could just keep her eye color the same. I wouldn't not read a book just because her eye color was the same as a bunch of other MCs.

    And I LOVE that book. I got it almost a year ago, and it's a great go-to guide for various plot types.

  3. Yeah, eye color is kind of a hard one. When I pick an eye color, I like to think of all the people out there who have brown eyes that shine like tiger's eye but pretty much never make it into stories.

    I have blue eyes (the kind people comment on), and I have to say, I'd much rather people noticed other things about me. And seriously, if I read a story where everyone commented on the MC's eyes as much as people comment on my eyes in real life, I'd get pretty annoyed by it.

    I think if you want to go exotic for eye color, there are other ways to do it. It's not enough to just have eyes a certain color, that color should be meaningful to the story or to the character (i.e. eyes as green as the forest she grew up in, or the money colored eyes from Jim Butcher's secondary character, or eyes so richly brown they seem like dried blood... or coffee).

    Anyhow, that's just my opinion (which I voice loudly, so feel free to ignore).

    1. LOL, thanks Rena. I agree 100% with you. Actually my whole planet is brown eyed. There are a few "random" (not really) cases of blues, greens, grays, but only one with violet. It is significant to the story, but I keep wondering if it doesn't have to be. *sigh*

      I'll probably leave it. It's the mark of the mage, and the proof that she is a descendant of a very specific mage.

      I'm glad you posted, because you answered my question for me by making me think of the history behind her eye color. Thanks!

  4. Beth, Elizabeth thanks for your thoughts. I almost decided to stick with blue. Then I remembered why I picked violet in the first place.

    Dang it. I need to be done with this book or I'll question everything about it until its completely destroyed.

  5. Keep the eye color.
    I think my second book is more of a roller coaster ride than three acts...

  6. Noooooo.... Do not change her eye color! You justified her eye color pretty well (at least in the draft I read), and the only reason you're second-guessing yourself is because you think a bunch of people are doing the same thing.

    I'm going to posit something else. Perhaps you're only noticing all the violet eyes because it's what you have in your story. If Talia's eyes were green, you'd notice all the green-eyed characters out there.

    That's just my personal opinion, though...

    1. I agree with your second observation. You notice more often what is familiar to you, or what you are looking for.


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