Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Story Structure - Getting to the end

I’ve heard it said that Sue Grafton describes the process of writing a novel as being like driving through fog. You can see the road for a little way in front of you but the horizon in obscure. Other novelists speak about the process of planning out a novel in great detail before setting out on chapter one. It has been years since I read it, but I believe R. F. Keating describes this method in his book on how to write a crime novel. For me, the experience is somewhere in between. I know where I am going, but the landscape I’m going to pass through on the way will be a surprise to me. (Hopefully a pleasant surprise.)

I’m presently coming to the end of writing something and last week I had the magical experience of understanding how to get from where I am to the climax of the story. I perceived a pattern in what had previously been a complex jumble of information and story threads. Suddenly the chaos resolved into a single picture. I walked round the house smiling like a Cheshire cat looking for long-suffering family members to tell.

But there is one bit of a story that I never know before I get to it. That is the last little bit – after the climax but before the words ‘The End’. The crime may be solved. The action may be over. But in my stories that last chapter often contains the real payoff – the emotional resolution. I may guess what it will be, but I can’t be sure until all the rest of the book is written.

1 comment:

Damien G Walter said...

I find myself trying to deduce what level of planning a writer engaged in whilst I'm reading their book. Its like a game of picking out what started as anote, and what came out in the writing. Sometimes you can spot the starting point of a story, that first image, event or idea thats parked the imagination into creating the rest.