Sunday, December 20, 2015

Story Structure for the Novel: Or, Why I love John Truby and Leslie Lehr, Part 19

 A lot of novelists shut down when I mention structure. Writing should be done from the seat of your pants. No surprises for the writer, no surprises for the reader. . You should listen to the muse. You should write out 500 bad pages and then see what the story is, discovering it only after you are finished. Of course there are writers who can and do write that way—and beautifully, but I suspect they have an intrinsic and even subconscious ability to craft a story. Or they don’t, and those 500 pages languish in the bottom drawer of a desk.

I used to not believe in structure. I wrote and wrote and wrote and usually ended up with 800 pages and no idea of what the story was about.  Then one of my students at UCLA told me about John Truby and how he was this great story guru, and because I was curious, I got his book. I was sure it wasn’t going to help me, but instead, it did more than help. It changed my life.  It made me begin to see structure under the story, to think about moral choices and psychological needs. I began to see how the ghost (the thing that haunts the character and infuses his or her choices) could amplify the themes of my novel. The method is all about a moral understanding of the world, your characters and your self.

Ah.  I was in love.

You’ve all heard me go on and on about how much I love John Truby and his story structure. The first time I Trubyized a novel, I had a New York Times Bestseller. The second time, too! What Truby does that other story structure people don’t do is think about the moral tissue of the novel. This adds grandeur and complexity, and it really turns a good novel into a great one. Well, now he and his wife, the novelist Leslie Lehr (who also does manuscripts consults for the Truby Writers Studio), have an audio class in Story Structure for the Novel.

Of course I bought it. And listened. And took notes.  And was changed yet again. Truby and Lehr all about "reaching for greatness," being ambitious and writing something that will change your life.

You can order John Truby’s The Anatomy of Story, which is in paperback, anywhere books are sold. And you can purchase and download the novel class here.

Don't you want to change your life?


Michael Raymond said...

I own the book and read it quite some time back - before I really had my novel in the works. Now that I have a full story to work with, I'll pick up another copy and go through it along with my book. How is the Truby book best used, though? In the planning stages, as the idea is germinating? Or after the first draft is done and it's time to give it structure and support and a skeleton?

Leslie Lehr said...

Michael, if you are working on a novel, it's time to consider structure as soon as possible. I recommend at least reading chapters 1-4 and 8 before beginning. The audio class Caroline is talking about here is a brand new download. It will save you lots of time, as she says - and also includes prose tips. ;)

Michael Raymond said...

Hi Leslie, thanks for the comments. I found my e-copy of The Anatomy of Story last night and started reading through it, highlighting as I went. I've been working with Caroline on my novel, and she's a huge proponent, of course, of Anatomy. A question about the download: I followed the link to the Anatomy of Story Master Class web page, but I'm not seeing a link to any downloads. It all seems to be info about the seminars. Am I missing something?