As a working first principle for this book / series of blog posts, I’m adopting the basic attitude that all of the various competing theories on how stories should be written and structured and why people like to read them and why authors fail if they don’t conform to certain rules – all those theories have something valid to tell us. But none of them are complete, or apply to all stories.
This does need saying – because there are many, many people writing ‘how to’ books for authors and writers and would-be novelists and screenwriters who adopt that ‘authoritative’ tone of voice and insist that they have the answer: their theory is the one that works and if you don’t comply with it, your book will be a failure. You will be a failure.
It is possible, however, there is no one master-key to all stories. There is no one structure that all great stories conform to. There isn’t one formula or design principle that works across the board. There are many types of stories. People read for many different reasons. It may just be that stories are too varied, too complex, too alive to ever be completely categorised and explained.
So, in these posts and in this book, I’ll be exploring what works and what is insightful. But none of it is the final word, or a hard and fast rule. Stories cannot be contained. They live, they breathe, they change, they deal with human nature and emotions and actions. They are as varied and as complex as we are. They cannot be shoved inside a straight-jacket of a theory without losing their essential essence.
Stories break the rules.