The Superfluously Strict Structure.

18 06 2011

Yes that tends to be my trouble. I’ve been writing with focus for the better part of a decade and this is the one villain that continues to pop up in what I write. I envision him to be an older man the face of which I am unable to clearly identify, the shadows in which he lurks obscures his features too greatly. He carries a rope in one hand and a hammer in the other. One to bind, one to smash! He moves with impossible speed and his accuracy is uncanny! The approach reminds me more of a hawk then a man, swooping at incredible speeds down toward the manuscript which he lasso’s in one quick motion before climbing again, preparing to swoop back down for a second pass. It comes moments later and in the blink of an eye his mighty hammer comes swinging without mercy upon the unprotected head of my manuscript. It never saw it coming. It’s pages scatter to the wind. The man, he does not go far. He waits in the trees nearby in anticipation of scoring another kill… I should mention his name is Bill. I dislike Bill.

But what does it all mean?

Removing the old man completely from the picture and talking straightforward here, I can tell you that plot is something I struggle with. Not the development of plot, but what it does to my story. “That doesn’t make sense.” I’ve been told, plot and story are the same thing! And to this of course I say “NAY!” It’s a bit like rectangles and squares. As the rule goes, all squares are rectangles but not all rectangles are squares. That’s how I look at it anyway. I see story to be that overarching, all-encompassing creature that wanders around with the plots, characters and conflicts locked deep within it. Plot on the other hand is a little tool that allows us to get to the point where the story is complete. You may think this all to be very silly of course but hey, the Green Fox has his opinions too!

So what in the world are we talking about again? It all boils down to structure. The plot gets in the way of my story telling because often times I force it a bit more than necessary. There are two ways to approach the craft, one through structure – outlining, note taking, researching, storyboarding; nothing inherently evil. The second is the “organic” approach to writing which throws the process of careful planning right out the window. It consists of dropping a problem into the laps of characters and watching them react to it. In that you really develop the story as you go along. I’ve tried both and have had mixed results. Remember how I said there was no inherent evil in all those things? The real problem with those things are the people who use them. It’s like a set of laws. They are there for a reason, to protect us and by some merit increase the quality of our daily living. However, too many and we become stifled and overly prohibited.

It happens with plot too.

Looking back at some of the work I’ve done I can easily pick out where over planning really begins to destroy the quality of character in the people I’m trying to tell a story about. You don’t want to go too far in the other direction either of course, under planning can lead to a plot that is severly lacking, all of the sudden we see characters with nothing to do. And who wants to read a story where nothing happens? Like many other writers, I’m trying to strike a better balance. I won’t say perfect because that would be impossible. I dare you to try and find a quality writer that publishes first drafts! All I want is to find the middle of the road with the shadowy man fixed clearly in the rear view mirror.




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