I finally finished editing The Price of Pandemonium. And I have to say, I am relieved to be out on the other side, and looking forward to actually creating again. Of course, because the next story needs a bit of planning before we dive into it, and because Ashley is still working through Darkness, Set Us Free, I’m faced with a bit of spare time, which isn’t a bad thing. Time to read. Time to study. Time to learn.
I was staring at the ‘writing’ section of Dan’s bookshelf in his study (he has quite an extensive library in there on a huge range of topics) and one book sort of peeked out at me that I hadn’t seen before: The Story Grid.
What it is, is a book on story structure. I’ve read about story structure before, but the way this one is laid out makes more sense to me than other books. It’s written by an editor who wanted to share with writers what he looks for in order to tell whether a story ‘works’. Anyhow, Dan saw me looking at the book, and said to me, “you should listen to the podcast, too.”
There’s a podcast on this?
So, I have started listening to an episode a day, when I’m doing chores like cooking or cleaning or just driving to and from the grocery store. I can attest to it being very good, and if you want to know anything about story structure, you should definitely check it out.
My most recent discovery is that there’s actually descriptive terms for the level of knowledge readers vs characters have. Because our books are multi-perspective, Ashley and I feed our readers quite a bit more information than any individual character knows. Turns out this is called ‘dramatic irony’. When characters know more than the readers, that’s ‘mystery’. And, when the characters and the readers have the same level of knowledge, that’s ‘suspense’. Maybe this seems obvious, and I probably sensed it subconsciously. But I like being able to name things. Pinpointing it helps define what we’re doing, it makes it easier to craft a book that keeps the readers entertained. It makes it easier to explain why something works effectively, and something else doesn’t.
And it makes perfect sense. Soaps are full of dramatic irony. Cop shows are full of mystery. Thrillers are full of suspense. But now I can say, aha! The reason is the level of knowledge, characters versus audience. That’s why we get worked up. It’s the key that keeps us riveted to the screen (or book). I feel like I’ve had a breakthrough. Who knew that something so obvious could be so significant?