Who Needs Pants?

I had the opportunity to attend a writer’s conference last year and hear Larry Brooks talk about his book Story Engineering.

Because I’m me, it took six months before I picked up my very own copy. That’s not true. It took me six months to request the title from my local library. Then when I got it and started reading it I knew I needed my own copy. So I ran out and bought one for myself. I still need to return the one I borrowed from the library, but that’s neither here nor there.

The book makes an effort to bridge the gaping chasm that seems to exist between “pantsers”, those who write by the seat of their pants with no idea where they’re going, and “outliners”, writers who do just that. Brooks insists that structure, one of his six core competencies, is integral to producing a story that works.

I have to agree. I may have started as a pantser when I began writing all those years ago, but I quickly came to realize that writing is like a road trip and you know what helps on a road trip? Some freaking road signs. I may not have written things down in an outline, but I was always finding moments to think about my story and what would happen next and what it would mean for my characters. I had a sense of the structure, as Brooks calls it, long before I knew exactly what I was writing about. In some ways the book was a validation, but also a revelation and I can’t recommend it enough.

There will probably by more related to this Story Engineering in the coming weeks. But I will say, after having heard Larry Brooks speak, picking up this book six months later was like being back in the same room with him. I didn’t think books about writing would be funny, but Brooks had me laughing from time to time. I’m glad I have my very own copy to reference now.

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