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  1. #21
    silver owl

    Re: A vote for structure

    i did it! i am not rescheduled and better on my way. thank you mark!

  2. #22

    Re: A vote for structure

    Boy did this topic come at just the right time. I suddenly found my characters changed the voice of the story. Now to get it back on track I'm going to re-plot the story.

    Thanks everyone for your comments above. It's a big help.

  3. #23
    Victoria Strauss

    Re: A vote for structure

    I haven't been contributing in this topic because I'm simply awful at talking about craft. However, since this is more a technical question, here goes.

    I ALWAYS know what the end will be. In order to travel effectively, I MUST know where I'm going before I set out. I do much as Mark does: I plot the entire book before I begin writing. I do this by means of a detailed synopsis (usually divided into sections, but not into chapters) which covers the main plot points, basic details of worldbuilding (which you have to do in fantasy), and the main characters. For the book I'm working on now, which will probably wind up being around 200,000 words, the synopsis ran about 30 single-spaced pages. There's plenty of other prep work, research, etc. to be done before starting; but the synopsis is always first.

    I also know in advance who my protagonists are: what motivates them, what personality traits they need, even what they look like. They develop in tandem with the plot; my books are character-driven, rather than plot-driven, but even so they involve complex stories, and character and plot must mesh. My characters are inventions--they do what I tell them, and that includes not changing the book. I do come to know them more fully as I'm writing, and like Mark, I sometimes find that they develop in ways I hadn't entirely anticipated. But they never surprise me. It's more like becoming more intimate with someone you already know pretty well.

    My main characters, my basic story arc, my central themes, my beginning middle and end--as planned in advance through my synopsis--never change. But within that structure there's a lot of flexibility. New characters pop up to help the story along. Incidents flesh out in ways I hadn't planned. New scenes occur to me; scene framing or emphasis changes; sometimes I get rid of scenes I realize I don't need. New themes come into play. Also, as a fantasy writer, I must deal with an element most mainstream writers don't have to worry about, which is the imaginary world in which my book is set. This too is planned out in advance, but also develops in the writing.

    All these various shifts and changes have a synergistic effect, and the finished product usually differs--sometimes quite substantially--in the details from what I originally planned. But because the initial planning is solid, my inventions and digressions serve my purposes, rather than derailing them. It's kind of like those forensic people who build faces for skulls. My initial planning is like the skull, and the process of writing is like building up the flesh. You're bound and guided by the structure of what you're building on, but what you wind up with couldn't necessarily be guessed from looking at the bones. Another comparison is the charcoal sketch an artist does on canvas before laying down the oil. In both cases, structure is being used to guide invention.

    Unlike Mark, I can only write chronologically. The process of writing is cumulative for me; what I'm doing now builds on what I've already done, and I need to understand where I've been to know where I'm going. I know how the book will end, but I couldn't write that scene ahead of time, because however I might conceive it now, it'll change in the process of writing up to it.

    If you think this makes me sound very slow and plodding...you're right. My average net output is about 300 words a day. I'm also one of those writers who doesn't particularly enjoy the process of writing. Not good for someone in a commercial genre, you say? Well, you're right there too. I have a June 30 deadline; right now, I'm running 8--count 'em, 8--months late. I shouldn't be here--I should be working! Sigh.

    - Victoria
    Victoria Strauss
    THE GARDEN OF THE STONE (HarperCollins Eos)
    Homepage: http://www.victoriastrauss.com
    Writer Beware: http://www.sfwa.org/beware

  4. #24

    Re: A vote for structure

    I've commented before, about my characters practically writing themselves... I have to say, that similar to Victoria, the true ending (the occurrence and what led up to it) did hold true, which is what I had planned. They took a path that just wound around, like a country road instead of sticking to the highway the way I mapped out. I can see that she is much more disciplined that I am, (maybe that's why she's successful as what she does, hmmmmmm).

    In my WIP, the characters seem flat. I am really unhappy with the people I've written. They do all the right things in keeping with the plot line, and it's really no fun. The biggest kick I got out of it was last night, I decided to write a piece in which my main female character visits with her mom. I figured the interaction would give her more of a three dimensional look. Turns out, I like "mom" alot more than I do the character. Mom had more pizzazz. This book needs a serious bandaid....Oh well, Rome wasn't built in a day...

  5. #25
    Matt Locke

    Re: A vote for structure

    Hmm, interesting. I've not written too many completed short stories, I only began to take writing seriously about 6 months ago. But from what I've written, I generally spend a great deal of time brainstorming, and then keep something of a mental outline for my short stories. If it's going to be complicated, I keep a list of key plot elements on a seperate sheet of paper, but this usually changes while the story's being written.

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