I’ve posted before about story structure. It is the sort of thing that writers used to either take years to learn or intuitively know. Well, even if you know about it, it is not an easy thing to learn how to do.
My current work in progress is an attempt at building a much longer story on the basics of the short story I mentioned in that post. After that little encounter, the main protagonist and his wife have a place to go and someone to chaperone them there. It’s just not very far away and it’s not what he expects. This means he has to figure out What To Do Next. Unbeknownst to them, I’ve also got a much bigger story arc in mind: one that will take him far far away from humble beginnings as a farmboy.
I have meanwhile written another short story in the same world. Different characters, different setting, similar issues. This, too, was an exercise in planning. One thing I decided early on was that it wasn’t going to be the first scene for a longer story. And that meant the protagonist had to end the story in a terminal way. And that, naturally, gave me the shape of the climax. This story was about three times longer than the previous one and it had several scenes unlike its predecessor’s one.
It was also a good exercise in ramping up the tension. The third last scene or so had a bit of a confrontation where there was an important amount of information dumped both at the reader and to the protagonist by the main secondary character. The initial write was flat and boring until I realized that there should be a real emotional investment by both characters. It helped they were not only male and female, but also different races. Both these differences were important because they were part of the original story premise. Significantly for this post, just this scene had all the elements of a story: an Inciting Incident, a Turnaround and a Climax.
Onion rings again.
In fact, since that scene was also the Turnaround for the whole story, there was no reason I couldn’t go all out on the emotion. So I did.
In the current work, I’m creating the aftermath of the Inciting Incident for the whole story. This has quite different demands on the emotion. You don’t necessarily want to put your characters in mortal danger because then you have to figure out how to ramp up the tension for the rest of the novel. However, this piece does need its own cycle and the tension can be raised a little bit. The Turnaround isn’t going to be dramatic or obvious, but it needs to be there: My protagonist doesn’t know he’s going to be learning an awful lot over the next sixty thousand words (or so), but he does need to accept he needs to start learning something other than how to dig for crops.
It’s easy to forget that story structure needs to work in the small as well as in the large. But it does. That’s what us story-telling human beings like about stories.