Thursday, October 13, 2011

Art of Words: Form

Something I don't like to think about very much when I write is . . . form.

That isn't to say I don't think ahead or know where my story is going. I just don't like to feel locked in and the more order and symetry I start to see the more I stomp my feet, shake my head, and stray from the path laid out for me.

Likewise, almost the first thing I notice when I am reading a new book is . . . form.

I am more than unusually impressed if the cliax is well planned out, if it pulls things together from all corners of the story, if every little tangent the story seems to run off on eventually has a direct purpose I was too distracted to notice at the time and the themes are consistent but not immediately obvious.

If you are sensing a problem here you are not the only one.

Fortunately, as un-fond as I am of form and structure (*shudder*) I am very fond of what I like to call Asymmetrical Form.

In other words, "What feels right" or "The story pull".

In a painting or sculpure a sense of unity and balance can be achieved by a combination of repetition (of shapes, colors, etc.)and rhythym, usually centered around a focal point. Paintings would be boring, however, if their rhythym was strictyly symetrical. Imagine music with the same notes in every measure.

Thus, we have Asymetry. A counter balence of wieght but not identical images. Also, the center focus doesn't always have to be in the actual center.

So, in fiction, you probably want more weight (let's say instead of brighter colors and larger or more complex forms, more detailed descriptions, tension, and colorful language) toward the end of the book or centered around themes you want to draw out. Hopefully some of those themes will repeat, but will not necisarily be evenly spaced. The climax can begin as early on or as late as you like so long as its intensity is enough to balance out the rest of the book. As long as there are still connections of similar "shapes" and "colors" that have already been used and won't take the reader by surprise.

Assymetry done right, looks like chaos but is actually strategically structured order.

Not that you have to be thinking about it the whole time. Most of the time it boils down to "What feels right". And if it doesn't quite yet . . . That's what editing is for. Writing is a much more forgiving medium than paint or marble. We have a delete button. And back up files.

So, rather than ask the usual choas vs. order question of panster vs. plotter, I would like to know:

How do you balance chaos and order within the manuscript itself? How do you know when things are too tidy and when they are just out of control?

1 comment:

Keriann Greaney Martin said...

I totally write based on what feels right. What's my MC going to do next? Well, how about this. That feels right.

I don't think I could plan ahead in much detail if I tried. It's all about the feeling I get when I'm writing. I just hope that in the end, the form is there on accident because I'm not usually thinking about it :).