Wednesday Writing Tip: Tent Poles

Posted: December 23, 2009 in Wednesday's Writing Tip
Tags: , , , , , , ,

I was listening to Chris Grabenstein’s podcast about writing fiction. He said he didn’t outline, per se.

Instead, he looks for four “tent poles” throughout his novels. These tent poles are strategically based plot turns that come at the beginning, middle (with two) and end of a book.

Pitch a tent...

In his podcast he mentioned that novels HAVE TO have a structure to them. That doesn’t necessarily mean they need to be formulaic. Chris mentions that it’s at the “bones” of the story that you can get creative. That’s where you can spin the plot, avoid cliches and give readers something to be surprised at.

Without the unexpected plot turn tent poles the readers do not get the surprises that bring them to fiction in the first place.

Whether or not you are an outliner or a first draft editor, keep in mind the tent poles the next time you set out to start a new work.

Are you creating conflict, surprising the reader and putting your creativity into a well structured piece of work?

If not, it’s time to start hammering in stakes for some well-supported tent poles.

Visit Chris Grabenstein’s site http://www.chrisgrabenstein.com

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Comments
  1. Its an interesting analogy because if you change one of your fundamental ‘poles’ midway through the book than the whole book comes crashing down, like a tent would. Actually this is the best description I’ve heard all day. Great post.

    Rebecca

  2. tjs9261 says:

    And if you got one or two good poles and one crummy one you got a shaky tent! Thanks for commenting, Rebecca!

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