Sunday, June 3, 2007

The Curve

Good Morning!

The novel has entered the difficult stage, where I have to stop adding new ideas and start winding up instead. Odd thought, no? I used to think that the thing to do was to make it bigger and bigger until about three quarters through, and then somehow make it all come back together again. I had in my mind the curve that my school-teachers always drew on the blackboard when talking about the basic structure of stories: starting at the bottom, rising really slowly, coming to a peak just before the end and then dropping sharply.
I thought that curve was measuring excitement. Or STUFF. Or something. I am actually still not sure WHAT it was measuring. But that curve was the number one tool in understanding fiction, and so I kept it in mind, just the shape really. Complete with the little cross at the top labelled CLIMAX, which I figured meant that everyone in the story got to be in the same place at the same time at last to make something big happen.

I am beginning to doubt that I understood that one properly back then... Now I think I got it. It's not about adding more stuff all the time, but about working your way towards the end basically right from the start. The curve could just as well have been dropping steadily. The thing isn't that it goes up and up, but that it is going somewhere at all, somewhere interesting, and straight there.

Now I've written the set-up, I know I've sort-of aimed for a good spot, and now it's time to light the fuse and pick up speed and see if I land where I meant to.
I normally flag at this point. Suddenly I have to remember all the bits that happened before, and use them - and no new stuff - to get me to the end. Oof. Challenge. I normally write down all the characters and list what to do with them. And then the whole rest of the story tends to read like ticking off a list. No good.
This time I'll not let myself make notes, but just tell the story, and if I forget to tie something up probably it wasn't that important anyway and I might as well scratch it out on the first edit.
Let's see if that works... I'd like it to!

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