In The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams, one of my all-time favorite books, the answer to life, the universe and everything is 42. Like all of life’s best jokes, it’s funny because it rings so true. Everything in life can be described mathematically, as it turns out—even literature.
In February’s Scientific American, there was an interesting article, by Mark Fischetti, about a study on the emotional story arcs of novels. It turns out that the vast majority of stories fall into only one of six tried and true emotional arcs.
I am, by nature, a pantser. (For those of you who might not be familiar with the therm, pantsing is the writing equivalent of winging it.) For me, pantsing is as fun as daydreaming, and I am a world class daydreamer. (Seriously, it’s the closest thing I have to a superpower.) The problem is that I’ve tried writing novels by pantsing it and they always fizzle. The manuscripts start out good, with engaging, clever characters that—at least according to my writing friends—grab them as readers. Then a quarter to a third of the way into the novel, the story turns into a disconnected jumble that I can’t force into any kind of believable plot. Continue reading