A Formula for Fiction — plot paradigm

Few like to admit that good fiction writing is formulaic.

To do so would suggest that everyone is writing a variation of the same story. However, it seems there are some ground rules that many writers and editors agree on that, when combined together, at least hint at a formula for a good story. And those rules don’t just apply to books. They apply to short stories, plays, TV shows and (fiction) movies.

While not every book ever written follows a standard fiction paradigm, most, in fact, do. Actually, nearly all block-buster bestsellers do. Enough of them do that you can find numerous books in the non-fiction section teaching writers how to write a book based on a formulation or a paradigm.

Some call it a three-part structure. Others will tell you to build your story based on elevating the tension as your hero pursues a goal while suffering conflict from something or someone who could prevent the goal from happening. And still others will tell you the secret sauce is in creating three turning points and a conclusion. Basically, though, at the root of all of them, each one is telling you the same age-old advice that’s been given to writers and playwrights for over a century:

get your hero up a tree, throw rocks at your hero, then get your hero out of the tree.

Lisa Shiroff, one of our fiction authors here at Tasfil, holds workshops for new writers where she teaches them what she has learned from other authors about the formula for fiction. Below is a handout from her sessions which we feel sums up a good, cogent work of fiction.

Fiction paradigm


If you’d like to learn more about her paradigm, feel free to contact Lisa at her website (www.LisaShiroff.com) or subscribe to our newsletter (upper right-hand corner of this page).


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