Structuring Your Story - article

At some point, you have to think about how to handle your story’s structure. The way I did that was to use an index card software program that allowed me to create index cards for important events and move them around on a timeline. I was already using index cards for my characters, but doing it on a computer screen made it much more efficient. The specific program isn’t important—I think the one I used was called Story Lines—but it is important to have some way of keeping track of how events in your story come together. I had seven story lines in my book, so I had seven timelines on which to put my index cards.

Of course, I also had to find a way to connect them up somehow. So I spent time thinking about what could happen and how I could create a world where a police captain comes into contact with a lawyer who comes into contact with a gangster and so on.

My personal way of figuring these things out is to lie on my bed and look at the ceiling and think until a solution comes to me all of a sudden. Figuring out how to connect different story lines was actually what finally got me to sit down and start writing. I had the idea for the story in my head, but I needed a way to bring together some very different characters—some were Christian, some were Muslim, some were Jewish, and they were from different social classes. I was stuck and hadn’t even put pen to paper. Then I turned right on 125th Street in New York and came to a multicultural neighborhood on the East River where there were low-income projects right next to million-dollar condominiums. I said, “This is my setting,” and I went home and wrote my first word that night.

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  • Hello. People sometimes think that I am daydreaming or not paying attention to them because I -- like you -- tend to develop story lines and plots in my head. This can go on for a couple of days. Then, I can suddenly sit down and begin to write. I keep up with the chronology by referring to a written outline an moving things around or adding to my storyboard as needed. Sometimes I even take off things that don't seem to be working out but I save them for my idea pile.
  • Yes,I find his sharing interesting and has sense...!
  • Excellent information. I have been doing this and I didn't realize I was structuring. Thank you so much.
  • Very interesting way to approach your story. I think I will drive around downtown Durham and see if I can make some discoveries. Thanks! Barbara Long "And One More Makes Five"
  • Thank you Bob, a very crucial point. I thought I had a great story till my characters bore me to death and the location mundane. You've pointed me to a new direction.