Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Today's lesson: Structure

Both The Writing Experiment and Story had to tell me about structure today. But they meant different (though overlapping) things by the word.

Writing told me all about:

  • linearity (describing things as they happen)
  • repetition (e.g. a poem that always starts or finishes with the same phrase)
  • variation (which is like repetition of similar-but-distinct things, e.g. a poem with a verse about blue, then green, then red, etc.)
  • simultaneity (when you have two parallel lines of ... I was going to say dialogue. Can be dialogue, narrative, or whatever)
  • multilayering (combining several of the methods we learnt earlier - like word association, for example - like a club sandwich, using different methods as layers)
  • number (X amount of words per line, or lines per stanza, for example a haiku structure - but of course the book recommends you create your own instead of using existing structures)
Writing also explored what it called non-literary structures, the more familiar (to me) forms of advertisements, websites, recipes, diary entries.

Coming across that was like the first time I was in Sydney, my first overseas trip as an adult. Wandering through the city centre on a Sunday morning, I caught a glimpse of the familiar logo of the Bank of New Zealand. Whoopee! The familiar!

So that's literary structures. I then went into Story structures - beginning with the age-old argument whether plot or character is more important.

McKee solved that pretty quickly - character (true character, not characterisation) is plot.

In other words, characterisation is the superficial, what we easily know about someone: their race, gender, social status, job, clothing, style.

Character is what comes out under pressure. Squeeze a grape and get wine. Squeeze your main character and what will you get?

So plot simply comes about as you put the pressure on the character. Their choices shape the rest of the story.

So that was my structure lesson this morning. I must say I'm really enjoying the outdoor classroom, even when the seat is wet from a brief shower of rain. I hope the ducks and rabbits in the park don't mind me sharing it with them.


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