Thursday, July 31, 2008

a valuable lesson

How many of us, truthfully, when writing fiction, pay attention to the concepts of Crisis, Catalyst and Climax? In fairness, I knew next to nothing about it until my wonderful scriptwriting lecturer, Felicity Packard, hammered it into my thick skull last semester.

I learned a important lesson recently that involved applying those concepts. I was in the process of developing my freelance writing project that I am to do this semester at uni. The task set is a 'novella' of 10-15,000 words in length. I went through the process of character development, storyboarding everything in great detail. Each scene was carefully mapped out. Notes were made on how to engage the reader's senses in each scene. All was set for lodging my project proposal, or so I thought. Almost right at the last minute, it occurred to me to have a closer look at my Crisis, Catalyst and Climax set-up, as they in effect setup my story arc and more importantly, my protagonist's transformational arc. Whoops - it dawned on me that during the climax of the story, my protagonist had become little more than a bystander. She wasn't the one undergoing the all important change, despite all of her involvement in everything up to that point. That climactic scene is being overhauled, to the betterment of the whole story. All thanks to the simple application of those principles.

Over the last few months, I have come to three main conclusions. Every aspiring fiction writer should:
  1. read Stephen King's On Writing
  2. read Elizabeth George's Write Away
  3. study with a teacher as damned good as Felicity Packard - one of the writers of the Underbelly series - good scriptwriting needs structure and the amount I learned in my first three months of working with Felicity was simply staggering.
I can say in all honesty that I now wonder how in blazes I ever managed to get anything published before.

Of course we don't all have that last luxury. I fell into it more by accident than anything else. So instead, we need to learn all that we can from other sources. Future posts will be referring to where some of that great stuff can be found from other sources.

Oh and before I forget - my last post mentioned Finnegan's Wake by James Joyce. After repeated attempts to read it, at present I am left with the inescapable conclusion that it is incomprehensible gibberish. In desperation, I tried a simple exercise. I repeatedly opened the book at random and read unrelated passages. Almost every time I found myself faced with more made-up words, paragraphs running for more than a page with sentences so long that by the time you reached the end, you had no idea how they started. And even after returning to the beginning of said sentence to read once more, I still had no idea what the hell it was all about.

My positive affirmation is starting to flag.

Poetry is good. (even though Finnegan's Wake is prose as far as I can tell)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Poetry is good

Well I am back in harness at university. My second semester is going to be much more demanding than first semester where I managed to bludge a bit. This semester I really have to work - which is fine by me as that is what I'm there for in the first place.

I was originally scheduled to do an advanced editing class this semester. However on reflection, I wasn't there to learn to become an editor. My purpose in commencing the study was to become a better writer. To that end I decided to take myself right out of my comfort zone and study poetry instead.

This was not a decision taken lightly. I'm so far out of my comfort zone that the comfy place isn't even close to being in sight. My concern increased when I realised that we were to study James Joyce's last book, Finnegan's Wake. I am yet to establish the relevance of this seemingly incomprehensible piece of prose to a poetry class. Concerns were increased even further during the first lecture when the lecturer not only admitted his belief that Finnegan's Wake is an extremely difficult piece, he even admitted that he himself has never finished reading it.

To help quell my fears, I have adopted a new affirmation mantra.

Poetry is good.

Poetry is good.

Poetry is good.

In time I should come to believe it.

I am also writing a 10-15,000 word novella as an independent project and have just learned that my supervisor is a tutor from last semester that I got on well with, so all augers positively on that front.