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This week: The Three-Stage RocketEdited by: Jay
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The Three-Stage Rocket
Here's a methodology for lyric storytelling that might up your short story game as well.
I'm always on the hunt for new ways to approach storytelling, so I was intrigued when I came across a cool method written up for a songwriting/lyrics site referred to as "the three-stage rocket." I wasn't sure how to interpret this at first in terms of short story writing, but having given it a little more thought and examination, it actually sounds really helpful for people who don't like strong, heavy outlining and prefer to work their story in an organic format.
The Three-Stage Rocket method of storytelling works roughly like the name suggests. It's not a perfect analogy--rocket scientists, please put away your slide rules, thanks.
The first stage (liftoff!) is the central focus or core of your story--the idea thread that you want to draw through the whole story to give meaning to your readers. In the second stage (getting into orbit), you are focused on stabilizing the core or your story with more support and thrust to get the story out. Once you hit the third stage (fine-tuning) you shape what you have done so far, making sure all your plot elements, characters, and overall shape works well and carries your story!
Like any writing method, it doesn't do all the work for you--it just helps by providing a framework. (Unfortunately, the self-writing story has yet to be invented, despite my endless search for one, haha!) Having more tools in your kit when it comes to ways to build stories, though, can only help when it comes to stronger writing.
I liked this as a way to think about story that allows for a little more flexibility than a lot of other outlining methods, and it feels similar to the way I write a short story when I'm not on a deadline or working from a specific prompt. It seems to be a good way to approach stories with a strong core idea or driving force, where you might prefer to feather in the details after your initial "bursts" of writing in that first stage of your "rocket" to get it into the atmosphere.
Once you're on the way, that second stage is a great place to start applying some structure to be sure that what you've got on your hands is a short story with a beginning, middle and end! You might find other outline methods are useful to check your work here, but it's certainly not required. The important thing is to reinforce your story core and come up with any extra material that can make the structure work.
Wrapping up your story is an opportunity to check off various boxes--are all your characters balanced and interesting, and do they serve that core of your story? Do all the plot elements make sense and connect to your core theme? What else can you do to refine your forms and clarify your message (without being too heavy-handed!)?
Perhaps part of why this method appeals to me is that it also mirrors the methodology for sculpting in clay (part of my old day job!)--build the structure, flesh out the forms, refine the details.
All told, though, it's just another way to approach storytelling, and those are like catnip for me, I think. I love to see how other people try to tell their tales.
What do you think? Do you have a similar method you use? Do you think you'd ever try a method like this in your work?? Got any other questions or comments I can help you with? I would love to hear from you.
Until next month,
Take care and Write on!
for more information on this methodology, I found this article particularly helpful:
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Some of the feedback from "Fanfiction: Inspiration and Practice!"
Thank you for including my flash 'Not So Happy' in this newsletter. Is there a better outline of what fan fiction is somewhere on the site or elsewhere. I've been intrigued by the idea for sometime but not sure what it entails.
So there is. a lot. of documentation on fanfiction--and it has a pretty rich and illustrious history I couldn't hope to do justice to in here. Fanfiction is a type of what is known as a "transformative work", and from http://www.transformativeworks.org/faq/ I've gleaned the following description of transformative works that should add some clarity here for us:
What do you mean by a transformative work?
A transformative work takes something extant and turns it into something with a new purpose, sensibility, or mode of expression.
Transformative works include but are not limited to fanfiction, real person fiction, fan vids, and fan art. The OTW is interested in all kinds of transformative works, but our priority will be to support and defend the types of works hosted in our archive, and the fans who create them.
Why was this terminology chosen?
The term transformative was specifically chosen to highlight in the nonprofit organization’s name one of the key legal defenses for fanworks of all kinds (including real person fiction): that they are transformative of original source materials.
A transformative use is one that, in the words of the U.S. Supreme Court, “adds something new, with a further purpose or different character, altering the [source] with new expression, meaning, or message.” A story from Voldemort’s perspective is transformative, so is a story about a pop star that illustrates something about current attitudes toward celebrity or sexuality.
The courts have also analyzed “right of publicity” claims against creative works by using the transformative use test from copyright law, so this also applies to one of the main legal issues real person fiction faces. Because one of our primary goals is to defend the right of fanworks to exist, having a key defense for them in our name is important to the organization.
I hope that helps it make a little more sense. If you've ever read a book, watched a movie or television show, or listened to any existing story, really, and thought "I'd like to write my own version of this, either with my own characters in this world, or with these characters in their own world or in a world I made up," you're contemplating transformative (fan) work!
Write 2 Publish 2020 writes:
I wrote a novel years ago using a premise from my favorite writer Zenna Henderson. After a few years the TV series HEROES came out and I thought, someone took my premise of aliens here that look like us but have powers. I thought some more about it and realized all super heroes are have the same premise. They look like humans but have super powers. I'm going to dust off my old MS and give it a rewrite. It's the start of a series I'd wanted to write. Hint The Kindred was based on that thought. Now you know how I came with the awful monniker.
That's kind of an awesome backstory, though! I think there are a lot of books that began life from the direct inspiration of others--and I think that's a wonderful thing.
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