Tuesday, July 28, 2020

My Big Question for You: How to Organize the Book?

Okay, guys, time for the big question: How on Earth should I organize this damn thing? In the pitch I sold, I proposed organizing it by example. Start out with some fun personal stuff like the last book, then have three longs chapters about Believe, Care and Invest (Possibly now to become Connect, Care, Commit?), then have 50 3-page chapters about 10 books, 10 movies, 10 TV pilots, maybe 10 non-fiction books, maybe 10 comics, something like that.

But now I’m doubting that. Obviously I’ve just done 20 movies here so far on the blog (more in raw data form than the actual essays I’d write for the book) That’s more examples than I’d off in the book, but right away it started feeling a little monotonous to me. If I just frog march my readers through 50 examples, pointing out similar things about each one, it could be hard to read the whole thing.

So I’m freaking out. So here are some other ideas:

I could organize it around pieces of advice, such as using humiliation, then give a lot of examples of that. The problem is that that’s the way I organized my last book, and it might seem too similar.

So here’s a new idea: Organize it around reasons that characters will be hard to identify with. Jerk heroes we love. Passive heroes we love. Petulant heroes we love. Then look at a bunch of examples of each and how they’ve overcome this baked-in liability. As we’ve seen, every great hero breaks some rule of identification, as well they should. You don’t want to have a mathematically-perfect Likeable Character. Something specific about this particular character is going to create a speed bump to likeability, and then you use your powers to get your audience over that speed bump.

I’d had an idea for another book called “The Exceptions: How to Break Every Writing Rule”. What if I kind of combined the ideas?

I dunno.  Any other ideas?  Organize my book and I’ll thank you in the acknowledgments!


Anonymous said...

Hey Matt,

Those are some great ideas. One other way you could organize it is by collecting examples into each area. When using your suggestions to improve a story, it’s common to work on things one by one anyway. Here is what I mean:

Fun personal intro (ahem, so we can believe, care, and invest)

High level overview of Believe Care And Invest

All examples of what makes us believe

All examples of what makes us care

All examples of what makes us invest

Putting it all together (optional)

Mistakes to avoid section

Encouraging close

BCI for each story grouped together for reference

Note* I am a fan of the original terms believe care and invest!

Hope that was helpful.

Matt Bird said...

So helpful! Thanks. I gotta get on the ball with this stuff.

Friday said...

>>(Possibly now to become Connect, Care, Commit?)

What!? It was a joke, Matt! Because you were making fun of James' five things (now seven) that all "just happen" to be Es. Let it be known that I am really bad at jokes.

You should seriously stick with Believe, Care, and Invest -- just not in the title.

>>I’d had an idea for another book called “The Exceptions: How to Break Every Writing Rule”. What if I kind of combined the ideas?

That's a book I would buy based on the title alone. So many writing books are blatant retreads of beaten-to-death ideas, just in a brand new shiny suit. Could you combine them and still have a snazzy title?

As for the organization, I don't have any advice other than to say I personally wouldn't be averse to the SoS structure again. It was immensely readable even the fifth time through.

Anonymous said...

I like the idea of organizing it around characters with faults most. I think the way you organize the book ultimately works conceptually. Since this is a book principally about characters, organizing it around characters makes the most sense to me, rather than organizing it around examples or something else.

If the subject of character is your main focus, I think your original title (if that's what you're sticking with) works quite well, as 'The Exceptions' could be construed as more broad, and not just limited to character.

I think you have a book with a lot of potential regarding specific, even more in-depth discussions of character than your previous one.

Your last book was extremely well-organized, therefore easy to understand, so I think it would be great if you could retain that neat system of organization (if that's what you want to call it), but just have a new concept to organize. I hope that makes sense.

Anonymous said...

I'm not a professional writer, I just like reading about all this. I like "believe, care, invest". It's intuitive. I kinda lost track of which stuff on here is unique to the blog and which stuff is also in the "Secrets of Story" book. Everything on the blog should eventually be in a printed book, especially the Hero Project material. It's all really good stuff.

Good luck with the book. Your blog is awesome. I'm really enjoying it!

Day Leitao said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Day Leitao said...

I wasn't clear.

I think the idea “The Exceptions: How to Break Every Writing Rule” is super cool. It's click-friendly. It solves a problem in the sense that authors sometimes feel constrained by writing rules or think they can be broken, and a book on how it's done and when it works would be interesting.

If not that, a book on your plotting/structure system would be wonderful (it could be a follow-up book).

A book on the Hero Project would be amazing, too.

jpb333 said...

In my opinion, believe, care, invest is way better than connect, care, commit. "Connect" doesn't seem accurate; isn't it more about believing in the reality of the character and the world -- that both have enough texture and detail to get past the leap of faith the audience needs to suspend their disbelief and accept the reality of the world of the story? Also, the alliteration makes it harder to distinguish between the elements; all the Cs blur together.

I'd happily read a number of well-thought out case studies on the subject, but I do think an organizing principle would be better. A thought: rather than focusing only on the main character's flaws, would there be a way to focus on both the MC's positive attributes and flaw, and the interaction between the two? Maybe connect it back to the Hero Personality Profiles series you made before? You're collecting the data/evidence now to make your argument, but I'm wondering if the different types of heroes, who contrast with the other characters of their respective stories in recognizable ways, might undergo the believe, care, invest process in a similar way. For instance, does a "sensitive type" hero have certain tendencies in how they're framed early on in a story in a way that is markedly distinct from how a "deserving winner" is portrayed? If so, it might make for an effective way to organize the new book.