Recently, I mentioned I’d done an initial structure check on my fantasy novel in progress. (By the way, I’m now calling it FFB instead of Title TBD.) Using the 3 Act model, my story was in pretty good shape – acceptable, at least. After all, it’s only my first draft.
As heartening as that news was, I just couldn’t leave well enough alone. I mean, I did move on to do some work on a few missing items, but for whatever reason I wanted to take another look from a different perspective.
So, I chose to do a second structure check using the 14 Signposts James Scott Bell articulates in his book Super Structure: The Key to Unlocking the Power of Story. His was one of the books I bought and read early in my ongoing effort to educate myself in the writing process.
Once again, my story was stacking up surprisingly well (in my view) for a newbie effort until I reached the Q Factor. I don’t want to steal Mr. Bell’s thunder here. He’s the one who explains it best, and I recommend his book to you.
In brief, however, the term Q Factor hearkens back to the James Bond stories. Near the beginning, Bond always visits the brilliant inventor Q who gives the agent one or two useful items – a pen that turns into a laser, a shoe that has a radio hidden in the heel, or some such thing. Then late in the story as Bond is facing death at the hands of the evil villain, he remembers one of his Q gifts which is instrumental in turning the odds around. That’s Bell’s Q Factor whether it’s a physical object or not.
My manuscript didn’t have a Q Factor!
I stopped and considered whether FFB needed such a thing. My conclusion? Absolutely!! My book will benefit greatly from a well articulated and well-placed Q Factor. As a reader and movie viewer, I know I’ve been quite satisfied with a good Q Factor.
Oddly enough, I already had an element in the story that was just waiting to be elevated to Q Factor status. Now, all I have to do is go back and rewrite the necessary sections, making it all blend in seamlessly. Yeah, well, I’ll do my best.
I am so glad I did the second check. Whew! I know my story will be stronger and hopefully more satisfying as a result. Thank you, James Scott Bell.