The Three-Part Writing System

Wednesday, November 30

Photography by Alex Mazurov

In returning to my blog, after a six-month limbo, I'd like to introduce The Three Part Writing System, something I've been perfecting during hiatus.

It is simply this. There are three parts to writing: Plot, Story, and Craft.

What's the difference between Plot and Story? The Plot is composed of the events, by themselves, with no added decoration. The Story is made up of the color and emotion of things. If you took out a piece of the Story, it might not affect the events, but it might damage the atmosphere you're trying to create.

Let's see if I can make it simpler.

Let's say your protagonist is a young soldier in the trenches of WWI. He has crucial information that he must deliver to his commanding officer, but to do that he must cross enemy lines. He decides to bribe an enemy soldier into stealing him an extra uniform.
Those are the events. That's your plot.  That is the logical sequence of events.

But let's add a little flair. Your protag has been wrestling with his conscience throughout his enlistment. He believes the war is futile, and even considers that by not delivering the information, the war would be shortened. As he walks through the trenches, he sees the men around him, singing songs half-heartedly and clutching letters from home, photographs of wives and children.
There. That's your story. It doesn't affect the fact he has crucial information to deliver. It doesn't affect the Plot. But it does add some delightful drama and conflict.

And, finally, Craft. These are the words that you, as an artist, choose to weave together. It's all good and fine if your plot and story are amazing, but if you write in a jerky "See Spot run. Spot runs fast" prose, the book will fail. Craft is how you write it. Don't we all love those writers who write cleanly, whose words flow along, who make us not want to put the book down?

Take Frances Hardinge; "By day the villagers fought a losing battle against the damp. By night they slept and dreamed sodden, unimaginative dreams. On this particular night their dreams were a little ruffled by the unusual excitement of the day, but already the water that seeped into every soul was smoothing their minds back to placidity, like a duck's bill glossing its plumage." Mmmm. She has a way with words.

And there it is, ladies and gents. The three things that make up a book. The three things to focus on, to improve, to hone to perfection. Learning how to write won't be instantaneous. But nothing that ever came easily was ever worth it.

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