Tag Archives: Story Structure

17.16: Miscellaneous Structures

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, Peng Shepherd, and Howard Tayler

Thus far we’ve attempted to organize our discussion of sub-, micro-, and other alternative structures  with specific categories, but this domain is a lot larger than that. This final episode with our guest host Peng Shepherd has been titled “Miscellaneous Structures” because, y’know, sometimes the last bucket in your row of carefully, taxonomically-labeled buckets needs to be “miscellaneous.”

Liner Notes: Howard mentions “LTUE” during the episode. Hey, guess what! The next few episodes following this one were (will have been?) recorded at LTUE!

Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson

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Take the project you’re working on (or just an outline of it) and try to reframe it using one of the micro- or sub-structures we’ve discussed during the last eight episodes. Consider how it changes your work. What aspects of the story does it heighten, and what does it diminish?

Seventy Maxims of Maximally Effective Mercenaries (defaced edition), by Howard Tayler

17.15: Storytelling in the Footnotes

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, Peng Shepherd, and Howard Tayler

You probably already know what footnotes are¹, but have you ever seen a story told through the footnotes²?  It’s similar to the story-within-a-story structure, but there’s more to it than that. In this episode our guest host Peng Shepherd explores footnote storytelling³ with us.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson

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¹ This is an example of a footnote.
² This is not an example of footnote storytelling.
³ With the addition of a third footnote, maaaybe there’s a beginning, middle, and end, and therefore a story?

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Read the short story “STET” by Sarah Gailey, then take a short story you like (or one which you wrote yourself) and try to add footnotes to it in a similar way; either to expand upon the story, or to deliver a twist or contradiction to the story told in the body of the text.

Molly on the Moon by Mary Robinette Kowal, illustrated by Diana Maya

17.14: Structuring for Disordered or Order-less Reading Order

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, Peng Shepherd, and Howard Tayler

Guest host Peng Shepherd leads our discussion of “order-less reading order” (after we get past the business of “having too much fun with the episode title”). But what do we even mean by “order-less” or “disordered?” At one level, we mean you can just pick up the story anywhere and start reading. Kind of like TV series prior to the advent of the fully serial series. But kind of unlike it, because how does this work within just one book?

Liner Notes: For good examples of non-order-dependent stories, consider schlockmercenary.com, The Lady Astronaut universe, DISCWORLD, Seventy Maxims (annotated),

Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson

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Look at your current work-in-progress. Are there pieces of backstory that you could unpack into a prequel? Can you shuffle your story events for orderless/disordered reading?

Crossings, by Alex Landragin

17.13: Structuring Around a Thing

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, Peng Shepherd, and Howard Tayler

Our exploration of sub- and micro-structures continues with guest host Peng Shepherd. This week we’re talking about how a story can be structured around a “thing.” The simplest explanatory example would be structuring around a map, which is where we start the episode… kind of like how The Lord of the Rings starts in The Shire.

This episode does not end with even one of us climbing a volcano.

Liner Notes: 

Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson

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Is there a “thing” in your project that could function as a natural structure?

The Flanders Panel, by Arturo Pérez-Reverte, translated by Margaret Jull Costa

17.12: Structuring a Story Within a Story

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, Peng Shepherd, and Howard Tayler

One common structure—both macro and micro—is the “story within a story,” or “framing story” structure, and yet somehow we’ve never really explored it on Writing Excuses. Guest host Peng Shepherd is here to help us set things right.

Liner Notes: Here are some examples of story-within-a-story structure…

  • Canterbury Tales, by Geoffrey Chaucer
  • Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell
  • Hyperion Cantos, by Dan Simmons
  • Neverending Story, by Michael Ende
  • One Thousand and One Nights
  • Sun the Moon and the Stars, by Stephen Brust
  • Ten Thousand Doors of January, by Alix E. Harrow

Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson

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Take or create an artifact within your current WIP, whether it’s a letter, a diary entry, an in-world almanac or spellbook, etc., and flesh it out for a chapter. See what it adds to your worldbuilding or plot.

Piranesi, by Susanna Clarke

17.11: Structuring with Multiple Timelines

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, Peng Shepherd, and Howard Tayler

Guest host Peng Shepherd continues to lead our exploration of sub- and micro-structures by taking us into the scaffolding of in media res, flashbacks, and other tools for structuring a story by telling it out of chronological order. We also cover how to do this without breaking the flow of the story.

Liner Notes: The “trousers of time” book Howard referenced was Jingo, by Terry Pratchett.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson

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Consider what adding a second timeline to your current WIP would enhance about the story. Which characters’ motivations might be better illuminated, or which plot points or mysteries might be able to be given additional depth?

The Cartographers, by Peng Shepherd

17.10: Structuring with Multiple POVs

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, Peng Shepherd, and Howard Tayler

In our second micro-structure episode, Peng Shepherd leads us into an exploration of the ways in which the use of multiple point-of-view characters can create a framework within the larger framework of the story.

Liner Notes: In one example we contrasted the single POV Killing Floor, by Lee Childs with its multiple-POV TV adaptation in season 1 of Reacher.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson

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Write a scene in your current WIP from another character’s POV and see what changes,  like how the tone of the scene shifts, or what new emotions or information are revealed.

Meet Me In Another Life, by Catriona Silvey

17.9: Let’s Talk About Structure

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, Peng Shepherd, and Howard Tayler

We’re beginning another eight-episode deep-dive series, and this time it’s a fresh approach to story structure, led by our guest host Peng Shepherd.

Join us as we zoom right through the overarching frameworks defined via things like the Hero’s Journey, Freytag’s Triangle, Save The Cat, and Seven Point Story Structure  to look at the microstructures  which both define and obscure these general narrative shapes.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson

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Pick a favorite book with an interesting structure. Can you identify how the author’s chosen structure enhances the tension, plot, and/or character development of the story?