After plotting my second novel in less than a year, I have story structure ingrained on my brain.

Inciting incident. check.

First major conflict check.

and so on. If you are a writer, then you know the drill. Even the most die-hard pantser has some idea about the path their story will take. Personally, I fall somewhere in the middle of plotting every detail and letting the story take me where it may.

Yesterday, my grandchildren were watching an old episode of Scooby-Doo and I was reminded of  Saturday mornings spent sitting in front of the television with a bowl of cold cereal balanced precariously on my lap. Back then I didn't  care about the predictably of the cartoon. It was reassuring in a way. I knew by the end of twenty minutes those crazy kids in the funky van would catch the bad guy. Now, I can see the structure of the story telling.

There is an inciting incident.

 Usually the van breaks down in the middle of nowhere near a creepy house, amusement park, movie theater, ect. and a mystery presents itself.

Conflict develops within the group as Shaggy and Scooby uncover a clue and no one takes them seriously. I can understand why they don't, a dog with a weird accent and an obvious stoner aren't exactly to be trusted.

Next, the heroes come up with a plan which usually fails and someone is kidnapped, in danger, ect. The group then splits up to cover more ground.

A chase scene infuses more conflict in the story.

 It is all wrapped up tidy at the end, usually deus ex machina, and the culprit turns out to be the last person anyone would suspect.

Yes, it is predictable, but I watched faithfully, every Saturday. I like to think I was waiting for Fred to break character and sweep Thelma off her feet.

Formula stories don't have to be boring. I think it is possible to follow a structure guide loosely and produce a piece of fiction capable of surprising and thrilling readers. It takes a bit of skill and the art of misdirection, but it can be done. I love those types of stories, the ones that start out and you think you know how it is going to end, but then something different happens to throw you off. Those are the ones I recommend to friends. Those are the ones I want to write.
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