That’s how I learned to follow knitting patterns— sets of instructions on how to knit a certain garment in a certain size. If you followed the instructions to the letter, even an inexperienced knitter could do good work. And the more experienced could adapt the pattern and be creative.
Fiction writing has its own ‘knitting patterns.’ One from the past is the Lester Dent Master Formula, which pulp author Lester Dent used to write short stories which sold. Another is the more modern Snowflake method, which is usually used to plot novels.
A fiction pattern is ‘borrowed structure’ for a novel or short story. All fiction needs structure. ‘Plotter’ authors do it by writing an outline, ‘pantsers’ do it all in their head. The formula simplifies the process for creating a story with structure for either type of writers.
“But won’t using a formula make my story formulaic?” No. “Formulaic” stories are dull, tired, predictable stories made by would-be authors who just grab at trite, done-to-death plot elements when they don’t know what to do. Such fiction can come into being with or without the use of a formula, an outline, or the three-act structure.
Using a pattern thoughtfully can help you to create a more original story. The secret is to not take any part of the pattern as Gospel.
For example, working on my ‘space western’ novel, the Snowflake method, Step 3, would have me write in the three-act structure. But I’m not sure I know the ending for sure yet. Or even the middle. I’m more of a ‘pantser’ than an outliner. So I just put SOMETHING sketchy down, and worry about the middle and ending when I get to it.
As a writer with Asperger Syndrome, I suffer from something similar to ADHD, and thus I find it difficult to write anything longer than a poem without the aid of a ‘knitting pattern’ for writing. It’s a way of working smarter, not harder.
I am experimenting with using the Lester Dent formula to write a 6000 word short story. I will be sharing more about that project here as I go through the steps.
Lester Dent Fiction Formula: http://www.paper-dragon.com/1939/dent.html
Snowflake Method: http://www.advancedfictionwriting.com/articles/snowflake-method/
This is a post in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. Yes, I’m behind and I’m doing the wrong letter today. But I’m still doing it. Go figure.
Blogging from A to Z Challenge: http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com