Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Building A Solid Story

At the end of June, Nathan Bransford, a young editor based out of San Francisco that I follow, had a guest blogger named Bryan Russell, who posts regularly over at The Alchemy of Writing. And being a drafting major I found the subject of his post fascinating. Bryan said, “A story is a house. We use words for bricks and wood, sentences to build and frame. Rhythm gives us a roof, diction a style. Plot gives us shape and form. We hammer and nail and build. We get drywall dust in our hair, blisters on our fingers.”

I’d like to add that a few of us make sure we have our blueprints, or an outline, ahead of time so we know where our stories are going, and what they’re going to look like when they’re finished. Sometimes we don’t keep right to the blueprints, if we want to change a wall, or add another room, but essentially, the structure is the same. As Bryan points out, even after we “move into our house” we might do revisions. I’d have to say that it become compulsory. Given the time, I’m always tinkering with sentences, or paragraphs, or even whole chapters thinking I’m making the story better, in reality I’m probably just changing the color of paint on the walls, but if the structure isn’t solid enough, then I’m wasting paint.

Bryan said, “Sometimes stories need more. Sometimes they need deep revisions. That is, a re-visioning, a re-seeing of the story itself. We have to step inside and see a new house in the old one”

I totally agree. I’ve been here. In fact, I’m nearing the end of a re-visioning of a story I love, that I started six years ago. Bryan goes on to say, “Yet we can’t always just tear it down and build it from scratch. We’ve invested too much, we’re running out of funds, and the parlor is really quite nice, and the brick fireplace, yes, it’s quite divine. And the view from the sunroom? Who wouldn’t want to keep that?”

There are certain aspects of my story that I love, that I think are perfect; and the thought of getting rid of them break my heart, yet what if it would make the overall story better?

Bryan told us, “Time to get out the sledge hammer. We have to break things down and rebuild. But what do we hit? Some walls can come down and some can’t. There are load-bearing walls, not to mention pipes, heating vents and electrical wiring. And the furnace is a cantankerous old thing.

“We have to wind a new structure through the old. We have to see two things at once. What was, and what might be…

”And what might be… and what might be… and what might be…”


In reality? We never stop working on our stories. They are a living work of art; ever changing, ever evolving into something we hope was better than the last time we touched it, until finally it’s published and it’s out of our hands, forever in print.

8 comments:

David J. West said...

I totally agree, I would still rewrite my first novel, but yeah its out there already.

Pat said...

I wonder if any artistic type is ever completely happy with their work? I always want to pick things apart and do-over even when I've done my best.

Debra Erfert said...

David, I bet its a relief to have that book done, though. And out there, for anyone to read? That has to be the best feeling in the world.

Pat, believe it or not, when I get to a certain point with a painting, I know when I'm done, and I can't bring myself to touch it again, feeling that if I add just one more stroke, or deepen the shadowing a little more ... then I'm going to ruin it. It almost tells me when its done. Weird?

Pat said...

That is interesting - all I can ever see are the flaws - things that I want to fix, finished or not...

Debra Erfert said...

Pat, you are a perfectionist, plain and simple. I guess the slob in me comes out, even in my art. (giggles)

Pat said...

Yes, I am - it's a curse. :-)

Debra Erfert said...

Hey, Pat, I finished my revision of Windows. I think its grand! Really, not too much different than the version you read, with the exception of Lucy being only twenty-one and Mac, who was her dead husband, now wasn't ever her husband, but is her first (temporary) partner on her first mission. I can't wait to start the next book, or sequal. It's going to be titled, "Echo of a Window". I think you read the epilogue about that serial killer who murdered Lucy's mother who sees the announcement in the newpaper? Maybe you don't remember. But I'm psyched.

Pat said...

That's great! I didn't think I'd miss the treehouse, but what do I do with myself now? LOL

I should probably pay some long needed attention to my house...
>.<

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