Monday, April 8, 2013

How to Recognize Great Story Plots

The Secret Language of Stories is a twelve step story analysis system I’ve devised both to plot my novels and to teach story building to adults and kids. It’s based on Joseph Campbell’s classic work, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, with strong influences from The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers by Christopher Vogler. In the past few years I’ve seen Vogler’s work referenced more and more in the classroom, but for the struggling readers and writers I work with, some of the ideas are still a bit abstract. My impetus for creating The Secret Language of Stories was to come up with imagery and vocabulary my students could understand all the way from first grade through high school but with concepts deep enough to still be a challenge in adult creative writing workshops. A complete description of my system may be found at  the Secret Language of Stories Tab at this blog.

When I give presentations at conferences and workshops, I provide numerous examples for each of the twelve points in the story analysis, but teachers frequently ask if I can give them any examples of an analysis of an entire book. Some of my older Spellbinders posts contain analyses of picture books, but I recently complete a novel that was so well plotted, it was easy to see the structure.


City of Bones is a fabulous New York Times Best Selling novel by Cassandra Clare. It is the first book in The Mortal Instruments series and it tells the story of Clary Fray, who seems to be a typical teenage girl until she starts seeing demons and Shadowhunters. For this week's issue of Spellbinders, I've written an analysis of the plot.

SPOILER ALERT

The following analysis contains several spoilers so I strongly advise reading the book before proceeding. I will attempt to avoid talking about the wonderful twists and turns while focusing on the spine of the story. I don’t want to ruin the fabulous revelations and family secrets that are uncovered.  On the other hand, the book is so well written, that it’s a total delight, even if you know how it ends. There are very few books that I start reading again as soon as I finish them, but this was one of them

To find my analysis of City of Bones, visit Spellbinders.

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