Saturday, May 21, 2011

Formulaic Writing

The one insight gleaned from today’s seminars at the Queens MFA alumni conference, courtesy of Alan Michael Parker who was talking about taking risks in writing: Most plots, especially in TV these days, follow the formula:
Childhood + Trauma = Protagonist
It made me laugh out loud because not only do many TV series follow that formula, often hidden in a subplot, but many memoirs do, too. Formulas work, of course, but they can also get boring. Fresh and original writing surprises the reader. So even if you’re dealing with a story that seems formulaic, it is important to be aware of the formula, and to ask yourself: Where lies the surprise?


  1. I love books with a twist- something I did not expect- so it only seems natural for me to be thinking of something to surprise the reader.

  2. I like surprise and anticipation, but there's a fine line between that and creating twists and jerks (as I like to call them) just for the sake of it. Hmmmmm.