Friday, April 1, 2011

Want to Learn Story Structure? Solve the Rubik's Cube!

What can the Rubik's Cube teach you about story structure?  Just about everything you need to know to create dramatic stories!

Most beginners will learn to solve the Rubik's Cube with a layer-by-layer method.  Simply put, you solve the cube like stacking layers of a wedding cake.  Solve the first layer, then the middle layer, and then the last layer.  Poof.  It's solved!  Easy as 1,2,3.

Good things come in threes, right?  Well, this simple 3-layer Rubik's Cube method can help you remember the most common story structure.  You've probably heard the old adage that a story has a beginning, a middle, and an end.  What this really means is a story must have the following three fundamental elements:
  1. A conflict
  2. Character(s) struggling to overcome the problem
  3. The resolution (either won or lost)
That's it.  Include these basic elements and you have a story.

For example:

What is the conflict?
I want to solve this puzzle, but there are 43,000,000,000,000,000,000 possible ways to further mess it up.

What is the struggle?
I plan to solve the puzzle one layer at a time.  Complications arise.  If I try to solve the pieces in the middle layer, I risk messing up the first layer pieces.

What is the resolution?
My actions bring me to a turning point.  I now have two layers solved.  Here, the stakes are highest.  With every move to solve the remaining pieces, I might have to start over from the beginning.  I am fully committed and must risk it all to move forward.  I will reach a final resolution.  On the one hand, I may achieve my goal and solve the cube successfully.  On the other, I may not, and I chuck it against the wall in frustration.  Either way:  "The End".  The story is resolved.

You'll find these three elements in almost every classic story, from "Romeo and Juliet" to "Cinderella".  The amazing thing about Shakespeare is he didn't have the Rubik's Cube as a guide and yet he still wrote masterful stories.

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