We all know it when we read one. A masterpiece, that is. A fully developed, well-plotted, delightfully populated novel that keeps you up into the wee hours of a work night. The kind of story that makes you long for the days you were a kid huddling under the covers with a flashlight, praying that Mom wouldn’t tiptoe past until you’d at least finished that chapter.
The Internet is filled with articles on what makes a good story. How to write one? How to create characters? How to get a publisher to love me, darn it. The only thing I haven’t seen so far is a random generator for which celebrity will play my MC in the next summer blockbuster (and if you see it, I’ve got dibs!).
Anyone who’s strung more than a few sentences together knows it’s not as easy at it seems. If only there were a simple formula to hitting it big. Lots of software programs are set up to help. Countless books have been written with that author’s collected experience. Hundreds of workshops and conferences annually advertise the secret to success.
So… how does your story roll?
I like to think of the inner structure of a novel – of any cohesive story, as a matter of fact, regardless of length – as a ball.
A gorgeous, shimmery crystal ball would be nice, but maybe yours is a gold-glittered Christmas ornament. A blue garden sphere reflecting your friendly neighborhood butterflies. The sparkly New York Times Square ball.
I guess it would be an old green and white glass marble with swirls of purple and black inside, nicked in spots from a few too many crazy games.
I’ve been running my cozy mystery through Holly Lisle’s How To Revise Your Novel [affiliate link] course since January. The HTRYN course was my Christmas present to myself with my stocking and card money. With Holly’s help to direct focus on the Big Picture first, I started putting it into perspective so that I can see where my novel is lacking.
Holly breaks everything down into incredible detail. Though I haven’t yet come through on the other side to learn how she puts it back together into her One Pass Revision [link to free article] technique, the ideas have coalesced for me into this theory of a Ball.
If something is missing, the ball just flat (ha!) out won’t roll.
That’s pretty much the tall and short of it, in my mind. If a section is omitted, the ball will wobble when you spin it down the lane. Maybe it’ll have a hollow corner and miss knocking over the bowling pin entirely. Depending on its components, the fragile garden sphere might even crumble in on itself… and we all know what happens when the loose end of a yarn ball gets caught on a kitten claw!
Naturally, I’ve also been tying it in with the four major elements of life. A recent writing challenge over at Red Room to blog about some aspect of the elements got me started. My story’s components are woven pretty well at this point; I’m polishing up my glass surface these last few months. A few nicks are giving me fits, though, so I’m shopping now for a marble glass repair kit…
I’ll go into more detail in the upcoming weeks, as I organize my thoughts about this fun evolution in my own perspective on writing, and on life.
By the way – I miss my battered, red marble race roller. It makes such a lovely racket when those marbles get rolling.
And it really tweaks the cats.