It turns out that I’m kind of a weirdo.
I know, no big surprise that the guy whose latest story series is about a woman who keeps tentacle monsters for sexual purposes considers himself a bit strange. I’m not talking about sexual proclivities here.
No, I’m talking about story structure. I’m a story structure fetishist. It’s gotta be there, or I’m totally unsatisfied. I don’t care how hot the sex is, how lush the descriptions are, how interesting the characters are—if there isn’t a beginning, middle and end, I am just not going to get a literary boner out of a story.
The weird part is, I didn’t really understand this particular paraphilia until I started writing and, therefore, studying the craft of writing. Sure, I had gotten the standard lectures in high school English class about exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and denouement, known as “Freytag’s Pyramid,” but it wasn’t really internalized. I hadn’t learned to see those phases in a story, analyze it like a biology student dissecting a frog, and I certainly hadn’t learned about all the myriad alternatives to (and elaborations on) Freytag’s Pyramid. All I knew, starting out, was that some stories just didn’t do it for me, and that writing endings was really, really hard.
So I started studying.
To be honest, calling it “studying” is something of a misnomer. I wasn’t very diligent, at least at first, and I wasn’t very purposeful. But listening to podcasts about the craft of writing, and reading blogposts, gradually gave me the tools I needed to understand my little peccadillo, both as a consumer and as a producer of stories.
And since then, stories have become much easier to write. Understanding structure means that I know I have to have a solid vision of each of the plot elements before I start writing. Those things can change as I go along, but when I know what’s going to happen at each stage of the story, I write myself into fewer corners, down fewer primrose paths, and up fewer dead ends.
Another upside to this is that when I read or listen to something that clearly lacks these structures, I can be more specific in my criticism. Unfortunately, a significant proportion of erotic works feel this way to me; the structure of most of them boils down to “people have a reason to have sex, then they do it.” Bleah. There’s no tension in a story like that, no energy, no meaning. But I also realize that judging stories by my own personal kink isn’t really fair, so I usually don’t call out stories on it. I just write them the way I think they ought to be written.
For those of you who’d like to play along at home and study up on plot structures, here are some links for you:
And once you’re done familiarizing yourself with those, here’s a story idea to fit into them:
A kinky pony-play “farm” gets raided by animal rights activists who don’t (initially) understand what’s going on. The handlers on the farm are expecting a new group of untrained “colts”, so the misunderstandings go both ways.
Learn more about Nobilis and his work at his…