Thursday, May 31, 2007

Notes from "Scene & Structure" with Pearl Luke

We don't often hear anyone say, I'm not going to use a subject and a verb in my sentence, nor an object or clause either - it's all too formulaic. And punctuation! That's really obvious. I'm striving originality. And yet it is common to hear emerging writers dismiss story structure for the same reason - that it is too formulaic. When their stories sag, or fall short of their expectations, they can't understand why.

Yet scene and structure have been the basic building blocks of fiction since Aristotle, and remain as important as ever. Knowing the purpose of structural parts and being able to use them effectively prevents writing problems and helps to resolve those that do arise; skillfully used, a structural framework serves the same purpose as the frame of a house - it provides the necessary form and strength that prevents all the beautiful, unique bits from falling in on themselves.

What is Structure?
  • Plot: chronological events based on cause & effect
  • Structure: the physical organization of the piece
  • Front to back, back to front, ends to middle
  • Beginning, middle, end
  • Plot points (change)
  • Chapters, sections
  • Scene/sequel (action scene/reaction scene)
  • Cause/effect
How do we create structure?
  • Scenes for real-time action/sequels for emotion, thought, back story
  • Beginning: open as close to change as possible.
  • Character’s goal creates a story question.
  • End: as soon as possible after question is answered
  • Pacing: control through scene/sequel and sound; short vowels (aa, e, ee, i, o, u) shorter sounds speed things up; long vowels A, I, O, U, Y slow things down.

PEARL LUKE is the author of two critically acclaimed novels: Madame Zee and Burning Ground, both published by HarperCollins Canada. Burning Ground was a Globe and Mail notable book of the year. It won the Commonwealth Prize for Best First Novel in the Canada/Caribbean region and was short-listed for the Chapter/Robertson Davies Prize, the Georges Bugnet award, and the Canadian Booksellers’ Libris award.

In 2006, Madame Zee was a book club pick for Chatelaine and Flare magazines. Pearl Luke mentors writers online for UBC’s Booming Ground program and privately from her website. She was writer-in-residence for the city of Taipei, Taiwan, and currently teaches writing for DeVry University Online. She is at work on her third novel.

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