Apr. 28th, 2016

Structure

Apr. 28th, 2016 02:18 pm
pameladean: (Libellula julia)
So there are a lot of ways to talk about narrative and fictional structure generally, a lot of ways of mapping it all: scene and sequel, rising and falling action, hysteron proteron, many more. I used to read about them avidly. Long ago when I was in college and struggling with short stories, one of my English professors suggested that I write a play, because the structure was predetermined and you could just plug elements into the template.

None of this has ever been of the slightest use to me except as an intellectual exercise. Well, that's not quite true. It's very useful for enhancing the experience of reading other people's finished works. It took me years to be even moderately good at using theories of structure for that purpose because my brain does not do that and in fact tends to dig in its heels and specifically refuse to do that, but I did manage it after the fact with other people's work.

I can't write that way, though. It will not happen. Everything just turns to water and runs away. I've stolen plots from ballads and Shakespeare, but even then, they warp and twist, and I write what I can write and then move it around and try to make it approximate the structure I thought I was using. I can more or less do thematic structure or emotional structure, but actual plot structure, the arrangement of the incidents, as Aristotle called it, is still opaque to me. It has to proceed from character, setting, theme, and mood and then get nudged around until, if you stand at the right angle, there is a plotlike arrangement of things that happened.

I know a lot of people who can see structure and write with it initially set up like the skeleton of a new building, but I cannot do it.

I'm not exactly asking for advice, though I wouldn't mind it. You'd have to be prepared for me to say, "Nope, won't work" or a more polite equivalent. But I'm curious about how other people, readers or writers, perceive or create structure in stories.

Pamela

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