A Thousand Words A Day

A writing journal _____________________________ PROFESSORBLOG@HOTMAIL.COM

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Location: Columbus, Ohio, United States

Reader, writer, podcast listener, and TV watcher. And real nice guy.

Sunday, July 20, 2003

More from the Burroway book. Her second chapter is about story form and structure, and has some interesting things to say about that topic. There are a lot of stories out there, we have a million little episodes a day that happen, but most of them are not GOOD stories. This was a nice little difference she puts out, the difference between A STORY and A GOOD STORY. She also points out that there is no formula to follow, but three features are in every story: Conflict, Crisis, and Resolution. Only trouble (conflict) is interesting, the whole story/good story sort of thing. She quotes Mel McKee as saying that "a story is a war." McKee lists four imperatives for the writing of this type of story: 1) get you fighters fighting, 2) have something -- the stake -- worth their fighting over, 3) have the fight dive into a series of battles with the last battle in the series the biggest and most dangerous of all, and 4) have a walking away from the fight.

There is also a nice description of the connection/disconnection, where we see a pattern in great stories represented as a power struggle. I am not sure how to put this into a novel as you write, but probably in the editing process one can see whether this is present or not.

She talks about the difference and commonality between "story" and "plot." They are not syonyms, she says, and writers and readers and editors who are sloppy use them as synonyms. She makes the following distinction, calling story a series of events recorded in their chronological order, and calling plot a series of events deliberately arranged so as to reveal their dramatic, thematic, and emotional significance. And the great thing is that you can tell one story in a million different ways, developing a million different plots.

She says, "A series of events (by themselves) does not constitute a plot, and if you wish to fashion it into a plot, you can only do so by letting us know the meaningful relations among the events." Good point. It is easy to take for granted what some of these basic points are, and it might be that I am so impressed because I have never formally taken such a class, but be that as it may, I think these basic points are worth my time thinking and considering.

Her chapter three is about Showing and Telling, a basic formula in good story-telling. I love the opening sentence of the chapter . . . "The purpose of all the arts, including literature, is to quell boredom." What a standard that is! Would that most artists would live to that standard and attempt to reach that goal.

I still fall victim more than I would like to to the Passive Voice, which I blame on my history of academic writing, which by its nature is Passive. Active Voice is something I need to keep I mind as I write, or probably more important I need to keep it in mind as I edit what I write.

She talks a bit about rhythm, which is not my strength at all. I don't walk with rhythm, I don't dance with rhythm, and I do not write with rhythm. Again, maybe this is something you develop as you write, at least that is my sincere hope, because othewise I am deep doo-doo. I do not know what rhythm is, except for iambic pentameter, but even then I have trouble picking it up in a sonnet or a play, so this is a real weakness for me. But I am hoping that commitment and the simple act of pushing through will make me more successful in this area. I need to know my weaknesses in order to be able to even try to turn them into strengths.


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