Friday, August 21, 2009

Friday Forays In Fiction: Teachers

My focus this past week has continued to be with this book and will be for the next week too as it has to go back next Thursday (though I may be able to keep it over that weekend without incurring a fine) and I'm hoping to not have to send for it again.

I'm not just reading it but taking copious notes--actually typing huge swathes of it into my note taking application--and doing a great deal of contemplation of my own WIPs in light of his advice.

Last week's Friday Foray post gave an overview and talked about my considering an adaptation of Ray's method for this year's NaNo novel project.

What draws me to Ray is his claim that it is possible to break down even literary novels into schematics that show how the parts work together to create the whole. And of course if it's possible to diagram a novel after the fact in such a way it is possible to do so before the fact--to diagram, chart and plan in advance of the first draft--without ending up with a hackjob.

This isn't quiet how he puts it but it's the meaning I'm taking. Now I've seen this claim made before and even seen the overall structure of the novel mapped out but what seems new to me in Ray's program is his advice to not write the novel from beginning to end but to write the first followed by the last scenes and then the three most crucial plot-shifting scenes (which I discussed in last Friday's post) and his method for breaking individual scenes down into their constituent elements and show how those element work together, play off each other and deepen the meaning of the scenes. And again, it's one thing to be able to show how a master like Anne Tyler did this, but it's another to claim to show how a beginner can plan from the get go to do it.

The constituent parts of scenes:

  • Stage Setup: time/place; temperature/season; lighting/sounds/smells; symbols/images
  • Characters/relationships: Dialog (subjects and subtexts); Action (large and small); Point of View;
  • Climax
  • Exit line
Ray breaks even these elements down into their elements and provides exercises for practicing producing them one at a time before then weaving them together into the scene. He calls this storyboarding and has adapted at least some of it from the methods used by film makers. Now storyboarding is not new to me either but I've always associated it with mapping the structure of the novel not individual scenes.

I've not made it to the halfway point after three weeks of intensive work with this book so I'm thinking maybe it's not realistic to expect to finish with it in only one more week. Not without neglecting other priorities at any rate. Including taking the time to contemplate the application of Ray's advice to my own WIP and fiddle in my fiction files making notes to myself that are stimulated by it and doing an exercise here and there. It is those very things that make the time I spend with this book the most valuable so I can't give them up and just race through the pages reading text only. I believe I've just made a case for owning this one someday. Except (as I indicated repeatedly in yesterday's post) books I own have a tough time competing with library book due dates.

0 tell me a story:

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