When you’re reading a story, do you ever ask, “What’s the point?”
If your reader asks that, you’ve lost them, so I want to tell you what I’ve found keeps the reader immersed and grounded.
My first wish is for us to talk about this essential storytelling strategy in the ever impressive, the long contained, often imitated but only once duplicated #Aladdin (1992).
CONNECTING YOUR A-STORY AND B-STORY
In longer works (short stories and novellas are different), one of the most popular story structures flips between an A-STORY and a B-STORY. Like if I was going to the fridge for ice cream (A-story) and was avoiding a bee attack on the way (B-story).
Think of the A-story as your big plot beats and the B-story as the connective tissue.
If you look closely at the Aladdin A-story plot beats side by side, you might notice something strange…
It’s no coincidence that these plot beats look so similar. That similarity is essential to keeping the audience immersed and grounded. No matter how crazy you get in the B-story, they feel like the story knows where it’s going and most of all that it has a point.
And oh, I hope you get crazy in the B-story, because that’s exactly where you should let your freak fly. This is where you subvert the genre, defy expectations, give the readers exactly what they want, all of that stuff. This is the connective tissue.
It’s also where you forget about plot and theme and anything technical and just get creative. As long as you hit those mirrored A-story beats, readers will know you’re in control of the story.
My romance-writing friends know this perhaps better than anyone. Sometimes people condemn the genre as formulaic, but the creativity and personal touches you’ll see inside that formula make for stories that feel familiar but resonate more powerfully than anything you’ve ever read.
Don’t worry about what you do in the B-story. Just make sure you have one. Imagine Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 without Peter’s relationship with Yondu. Imagine The Last Jedi without Rose and Finn’s friendship. Imagine Jerry Maguire without Jerry and Rod’s friendship.
The B-story is what adds depth and intimacy to your book. It’s where your characters can forget about the plot and where they’re going. It’s where they can simply explore the world, their relationships, their internal life.
Hit those A-story plot beats hard, but between there? Be creative. Have fun. PLAY.
I love showing off story concepts in Disney movies because so many of them illustrate (ZING!!!) good storytelling with the plot AND the songs. For a fun look at other Disney (ish) movies, check out these other articles on Black Panther, Moana, and The Last Jedi.
Enjoyed this article? Come back soon for the next entry in this series on Disney movies.
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