Story Structure

The following emerged in discussions about story structure at one of Writing Workshops run by Bunbury Press*. The starting point was linear plots, looping plots and fractured story-lines…

Reading a novel has some differences from writing it as I discovered some years back. It helps to have a healthy repertoire of plotlines in mind when you begin. Writing is great; stitching it together sucks your brain of energy unless you have a plan. Most fiction has a number of taken for granteds – the reader is expected to know this or that so put assumptions and shortcuts on the creative menu… in turn this provides a comfort zone to critical analysis… many works are similar.

SF (& Fantasy) requires world building and even universe building which often end up as information dumps: there because they’re necessary, but more like an appendix than narrative. This is a special problem, the extent of which is governed by the range of ‘what-if’ assumptions. Embedding information dumps is a challenge. Techniques to deal with this tend to affect plot structure so not unnaturally, SF began to borrow ideas from conventional fiction. This became more pronounced with New Wave Science Fiction: consider the harbingers of change: Michael Moorcock and Harlan Ellison.

In my case I work up a cosmology** and then choose which bits would look interesting and find ways to bring then to the notice of the main characters.

Does the authorial process of creation map directly to an analytical structure? i.e. is the world made the way we see it? There’s no right answer but considerations such as this took me away from the safe but sterile me-too offerings of ‘Roll up, roll up and ride from A to B, just like your last one thousand rides’. It isn’t necessary to tread just one path for a harmonious whole.

eg: ** Pre-contact protocol, how technology transfer is controlled, when those out there are permitted to prey on newcomers to space, what was before big bang, what lives in the blackness between the spiral arms…

* Bunbury Press hold their workshops at the Two Tubs (the oldest pub) in Bury, Lancs. It’s just by the parish church. For those with an interest, their next programme will look at Scriptwriting.

About Terence Park

Board games, US Comic books, SF Paperbacks, Vinyl records; I've plenty of them all. I write SF (the serious sort). I also do spreadsheets.
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