Saturday, April 17, 2010

To Formula or Not to Formula... That is the Question!

And the answer is YES to Formula!

Ha! You thought I was going to be all down on the formula thing.

Nope. I love 'em.

Now, don't get me wrong, they have gotten a bad rap. It's not the formula's fault really, it is the lack of craftsmanship some people have applied to formulas.

You see a movie or read a lame book, and go... UGH! How formula-matic was that? I knew what was going to happen from the first minute.

That is a BAD use of formula. However, every great piece of literature or film has a formula beneath it.

Don't believe me?

The basic 3 act structure that has been around since oh, the Greeks, is a formula. Shakespeare used formula after formula. Even putting a period at the end of a sentence is formula.

How about we think of it less as a formula (with all the baggage that goes along with that name) and consider it a chemical equation.

Or a roadmap. Or a blueprint. Or a cake recipe.

Whatever it takes for you to accept that fact that the vast majority of writing a story is laid out well in advance.

The Hero's arc. Narrative Drive. Plot points.

They are all pre-determined. You can certainly try to reinvent the wheel, but why bother?

We've got our chemical equation to tell us how our story should proceed.

Now, how you, as the unique writer that you are, bring those qualities to life, that is where the artistry lies.

Formula is another topic I find it strange that many newer writers resist.

To me, knowing that there are conventions and equations means that I am not out there fighting the good fight alone. I've got back up.

If I get stuck, I just turn to my equation. I figure out where I aught to be, then adapt that to my story.

It is so much EASIER than flailing around in the mud.

Now, I'm sure I haven't convinced you with this blog entry, but it has prepped you for where I am coming from with tomorrow's BIG blog...


She'll be here tomorrow to save the day (or at least days upon days of writer's block)!

Until then, WRITE #already


  1. You are SO right. I used to hate formulas. Then, I got really stuck (for like a year), broke down, and tried it. It worked like a charm.

    May I recommend The Snowflake Method by Randy Ingermanson? He's also written a book in the For Dummies series called "Writing Fiction for Dummies" that I heart greatly.

  2. Well, Carl Jung did say that there are a limited amount of stories in the world, and that we just recreate them by mashing up variables a little (I may be paraphrasing here).

    The originality is not in the story or the formula, it's in our interpretation of them- in how we write. So there's nothing wrong with using formulas, especially if they can help with things that would otherwise distract you from your writing style.

  3. I'm new to your blog and Twitter feed and I am enjoying both! Thanks for the tips!