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Guest Post: The Art of a Good Story

For 2011, I read a book every week for my blog's Book-a-Week Challenge. Guess how many people participated? Maybe three, and I was one of them. So when I heard about the hundreds signing up for the Fifty Fifty Me challenge to read 50 books and watch 50 films by the end of 2012, I knew I had to join. These were my people.

As someone used to reading one book a week, I'm not too worried about that piece of the challenge. Finding time to watch 50 movies? That will be the real push for me. It means eliminating several shows from my TiVo list. And that's going to hurt a little.

Why in the name of all that is holy would I add one more thing to my already teetering tower of to-dos?

Here is my answer: I'm conquering the Fifty Fifty Me challenge through the eyes of an aspiring novelist. I've written two terrible novels where the scenes and settings are somewhat amusing and even "moving" in parts, but the plots lack tension. The conflicts are too simple, and the characters sound too much alike. Instead of constructing solid, compelling stories, I wrote 300-page situations.

Nobody ever stayed up all night tearing through a book because of an "interesting situation." We lose ourselves in books for the love of a good story. We watch movies for the same reason. So how do the novelists and screenwriters make that happen for the audience?

Let's talk in January 2013 when I hope to answer that question like a professional. Some people are adding "majors" and "minors" to their Fifty Fifty Me challenge. They're reading all of Hemingway for example, or watching films staring Ryan Gosling. I'm majoring in "the art of the story" and minoring in character development.

Anyone want to join me? If you're interested, I recommend adding the late Blake Synder's invaluable screenwriting book Save the Cat to your Fifty Fifty book list. I'll be using Synder's Story Beat Sheet as I read and watch. Find me on my blog for the occasional "art of the story" analysis. You can also follow me on Twitter @NinaBadzin and see my Fifty Fifty Me picks on Pinterest.

Hope to see you there! Nina


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