After a serious surge in reading, I’ve been trying to focus more on writing over the past week or so. Result: as of last night, I’ve finally got a solid first draft of The House of Clicquot, so I can put that away for a bit and get back to the prose work of Effigy. I’ve also been doing a lot of research and drafting on my next MonsterFest entry, which isn’t due until the 24th or so, but there’s a lot of background to sphinxes. The running start has been helpful. Also, there’s the Rule of 3 blogfest (new prompts up today), and Rachael Harrie’s final challenge will be Monday, when I’m out of town but theoretically wi-fi-enabled.
I meant to post this on Monday. I managed to pre-write my ginger beer posts, but in spite of bringing writing along with me on a vacation-ish couple of days with Lisa, all I did was read. And hang out with friends. And watch MST3K and go on hikes and see some really, really amazing artwork.
We started off with friends in Brooklyn (check out Dave’s weekly blog on animation and careers in animation and news on his award-winning memoir short here), then off to ye olde Newe Englande to visit archivist and experimental filmmaker extraordinaire Rich Remsberg, and Lisa Nilsson, who is one hell of an amazing artist (sing the title of this piece to get the pun).
Structure identifies how we parlay dramatic tension – I think about it in terms of scenes and acts because I come to prose by way of stage plays, and conveniently it’s a common way of describing screenplays as well.
In conflict-driven stories (which is what most YA books are), we are trying to build steady interest and make sure that our readers don’t set the book down. Nevertheless, we want to give them a chance to breathe. We can’t run page after page through fights and chases and terror. It’s exhausting.
This is not an in-praise-of-one and excoriate-the-other kind of post. It’s really a question of the kind of story you want to tell and how you want to tell it.
Everyone hates the query, the synopsis, and the logline. The first is the two-hundred-fifty-word letter-to-the-agent, asking for representation. The second is the two-to-ten page (depending on guidelines) blow-by-blow of the manuscript. The logline is perhaps the cruelest injustice of all – the hook in roughly fifty words. They suck the spirit right out of our work, and often right out of us personally.
When I say that I’m a carpenter, you probably assume, quite reasonably, that I am handy with a hammer. If I tell you that I’ve worked as a theatrical carpenter, you probably don’t change your assumptions at all, because I’m still saying the word “carpenter.”
Here’s the thing: metal is by and large stronger and cheaper than wood. If someone tells you that she’s a theatrical carpenter, you should, yes, assume that she’s good with a hammer. You should also assume that she knows her way around metal working tools, including but not limited to angle grinders, porta-bands (portable band saws), recipro-saws, plasma torches, and welders (MIG, TIG, stick, and/or aluminum). I’m a lousy stick welder, personally, and I’m reasonably competent with a MIG. (more…)
Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book.
I choose this because Gaimain is explicit about his homage to Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book. I hope it stands as a case that exemplifies how two stories can share a very common structure and be viewed as equally and differently inspiring.
I could call this an example of a “coming of age” story, in that Bod (Gaiman’s character) has to grow up. I could call it a “quest” story, in that villainous Jacks (one of whom murders Bod’s family in the opening chapter) must be vanquished. Personally, I wouldn’t call it either one of those, although we could certainly have a good discussion if you were to take either of those or any other position. (more…)
Not of novels. Good grief. I’ve got enough on my plate.
Blog series on Writing, Structure, Character, and Story Design.
The Grammar and Vocabulary of Story
There’s some conventional wisdom floating in the world that there are only really seven stories. Or three or one or twenty or thirty-six. You can go here for a summary of the arguments, complete with book citations. Or here. Or here. (more…)