Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Invisible Beauty of Story

One day, after about six years, 800,000 words, 13 or 14 novellas, and forty-some short stories, story suddenly came alive for me. Just like that, bam! (I never said I was quick.)

And wow, I just fell in love with story. Deep in love. Probably as much in love as I fell in love with the piano and music.

image Underneath every great story, great novella, and great novel, is an invisible framework. It's the hidden plot, but the real and most important plot.

The way I see it, every character has an emotional journey and an emotional arc. These character's journeys provide both aid, obstacle, and conflict for other characters' journeys.

And not just the characters have arcs, but each relationship has an arc and a journey of its own.

Overall, the book has its own arc, its own emotional journey for the reader, and perhaps the arc of the theme.

Somehow, amidst this mess of arcs, an author must line them all up so they interweave and finally, in the end, all peak at the climax.

image The things that happen? The "surface" plot? It's only a tool. It's what we think is the story, but it's not the real story. The picture to the right? That just doesn't work for me.

image To me, the interweaving of all these emotional arcs into a novel is just beautiful. It's like counterpoint, like a fugue. It's thick and rich and full of depth.

I felt for Anonymous who posted the other day, who said books have become, for him/her, "gears and springs." As much as I love, love, love reading, I'm finding it increasingly hard to fall in love with a book. I'm finding it increasingly hard to find that perfect book that sweeps me away, the one with plenty of layers to seduce me, the one that just amazes me with its beauty and complexity.

But all this is just how I see it.

How do you see it? Are you aware of the invisible plot and arcs? Do you find them more or less important than the story the readers think is the real story? Which do you "find" first, when you're creating your story?

Today I am grateful for Advil. Okay, sorta a passive-aggressive grateful, but it's the best I can do today.

14 bonus scribbles:

Pink Ink 12/10/2008 09:52:00 AM  

I am revising a novel right now that more or less came to me whole as a story, and it's always exciting when I write it and get it ALMOST like how I'd envisioned it.

It's scary-exciting, like we really are just instruments of some divine Being...

Melanie Avila 12/10/2008 09:59:00 AM  

You make me feel like such a lazy reader. :) I rarely pay attention to anything but the story while I'm reading. Sure, I try to figure out what's going to happen but I rarely stop to consider how it's all piecing together. Maybe I should read Reading Like a Writer next.

Realmcovet 12/10/2008 10:57:00 AM  

Reading like a writer indeed. I think as much as you have written, you can spot plot a mile away, something not many of us can account for since the whole "writing" gig isn't for everyone. :)

But I totally agree with you when you say "the interweaving of all these emotional arcs into a novel is just beautiful. It's like counterpoint, like a fugue. It's thick and rich and full of depth."

I guess I care less about what the reader is thinking and just go for the "kill". If I let what everyone else may be pondering get in the way of what I want to illustrate, than it just all turns to ca-ca. Might not be true for so many others, but that is just my take on it. :)

And I have to confess, I gave one of my new characters your name.... I apologize for my "stalking" habits in advance. I had just noticed in one of the comments from one of your previous posts that someone referred to you as Natasha. I thought, "What a beautiful name, for a such a beautiful face".

So yeah. I'll shuddup now.

Anonymous,  12/10/2008 01:59:00 PM  

I love the way you compare writing to composing music, and reading to listening to it.

To me, the more I learn about the technical aspects of writing, the more I "see the notes" of other authors' books rather than "hearing the music." Although it can get frustrating at times, it makes those books that transcend that even more special.

As a writer, I'm very aware of creating layers. And lately I've been working even harder at making sure they're 'invisible.' That the notes don't get in the way of the music.

Robin 12/10/2008 02:08:00 PM  

I immerse myself in the story, and don't really notice much of anything. Sometimes, when plot lines all converge I feel a pleasant "zing" and think happily, "Oh. That's where it was all leading. Cool!"

spyscribbler 12/10/2008 02:37:00 PM  

Oh Pink Ink, I LOVE that! I love those gifts!

And I understand the feeling exactly. I feel like someone else wrote it.

spyscribbler 12/10/2008 02:38:00 PM  

Melanie, I'm too fast to notice such things; I constantly have to slow down. Reading Like a Writer was AMAZING. It showed me such cool things, I read it twice.

I taught me how to savor words.

spyscribbler 12/10/2008 02:40:00 PM  

Realmcovet, me? Oh no! I'm terrible at plot! I'm terrible at "holding it all in my head!"

Aww, *blush* I have to admit, I've stolen quite a few names over the years. I'm honored! :-)

spyscribbler 12/10/2008 02:41:00 PM  

RJ, I hear you. When a writer manages to pull that off, it's just stunningly wonderful. I LOVE that! Gosh, I crave that.

I just wish it weren't so difficult to get there!

spyscribbler 12/10/2008 02:41:00 PM  

Robin, I love when that happens! For me, I'm always relieved it actually "worked!"

I never know...

Edie 12/10/2008 04:11:00 PM  

Spy, now you gave me another thing to think about, weaving together all those arcs. Eeek! I write my books too organically to do that as I write. I know in my gut when it's working.

I almost wish I didn't read as a writer. It ruins too many books for me. lol But when a writer pulls it off, it makes me love him or her more than when I didn't write.

Melanie Avila 12/11/2008 09:37:00 AM  

Spy, I gave you an award on my blog. :)

spyscribbler 12/11/2008 10:06:00 AM  

Edie, you are so right. I wouldn't know how to manually do it; I just weave until it feels right, I guess.

And being a writer does take a little bit of the wonder out of the process, you know? Another reason pseudonym doesn't blog about writing.