Each class includes a short lecture that focuses on key features of contemporary genre fiction — the kind of stories that line book shelves at Barnes & Noble and show up as eBooks on Amazon.
Storytelling: An Ancient Art
Authors of contemporary genre fiction are the most recent storytellers in a line of storytellers that goes back to antiquity. And since the days of antiquity, authors have concerned themselves with ‘principles.’ During the Golden Age of Greece, when such luminaries as Aristotle were contemplating the perfection of things, there arose an interest in drama. Sadly, only a small part of one manuscript on the subject has survived into our time, and that is not even the original — it is a fragment that was made by scholars and monks who painstakingly copied and recopied the original through hundreds of years.
More than 2300 years ago, Aristotle, in the Poetics, made the observation that plays have a beginning, a middle and an end. If he said more it has been lost to us.
As writers have struggled to understand the underlying principles of storytelling, the idea of three parts has morphed into the Three Act structure. Nowadays, the idea of Three Acts is firmly embedded within the conversation regarding “story” and usually incorporates slight variations. Commonly these days, a story theorists will address the ‘mid-point’ of the tale and often refer to Act 2 in terms of “A” and “B” parts. It looks like storytellers are at a ‘pivot point’ of changing their concepts of story structure. We might be living in a historic moment when the trend shifts from Three Acts to a Four Act structure.
The Poverty Struck Writer
A quaint but persistent reality for authors is the ‘poverty’ phase. J.K. Rowling, as an example, spent years writing the Harry Potter books. She was a single mother living on state benefits. Her’s is a ‘rags-to-riches personal story.
Artists, like Rowling, have often depended on the generosity of patrons, or in her case, state benefits. Producing a creative work for entertainment takes time and money. A lone author can exist on a minimal income while toiling away at some minimal desk with pen/paper and computer while subsisting on ramen noodles.
However, a massive enterprise, such as movie making, can’t really get by with small change. Making a multi-million dollar movie entails great financial risk. So scriptwriters have been especially concerned with ‘successful’ storytelling, looking for the magic bullet that will create a moneymaking movie.
It follows, as the-day-the-night, that the great university film schools as well as cottage industry scriptwriters have been teasing out basic principles of story structure. Much of their work is now available via the internet — as well as through contemporary ‘How To’ books.
The Wisdom of Story Structure
The well told story unfolds in an orderly progression. that follows a deep structure, the
story backbone. Among contemporary story theorists, that backbone is being referred to by a variety of terms that can be totally confusing to beginners:
- Three Act Structure
- The Hero’s Journey
- Story Beats
- Six Stages, Five Turning Points
In these workshop classes we will examine how the structure of storytelling unfolds in an orderly progression of Acts, Sequences, Scenes and Beats.
Master writers have learned how to control the words on the page. They master the flow of meaning so that the words ‘work,’ one after another to create emotional responses in readers. Its the emotion that keeps them turning pages…and buying books.
The Wimberley Writer’s Werkshops classes and workshops are offered through the University of Texas – Austin, Informal Classes.
Register at: University of Texas – Austin, Informal Classes.
Go to UT-Austin Registration Page