Thursday, December 02, 2010

The Building of a Story

Matt: 7:26 And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand:
At my Writers Village University hangout we are often in discussions of what it takes to build a story. Bob Hembree, the mastermind of WVU is an intelligent man who has brilliant articles on the matter of sentence structure, metaphors, and the philosophy behind the building of a story, word by word.

I’m a poet and as such I love metaphors. I love the idea of a hidden meaning somewhere in the makings of a story. Like a poem, a story needs to have a grander picture than what the reader is actually reading at face value.

Recently I read Animal Farm by George Orwell and while unimpressed with his style of writing, I was floored by the hidden meaning of a tale that is now listed as a classic. Like many classics, the meaning of the story transcends time and space.

Lord of the Flies by William Golding is another story I read that held deep meaning in every page. I gather, from my interpretation, that man is a beast with struggles on many levels. In Animal Farm, men are pigs; in LOTF, man is a barbaric beast. So you see, this is just my take on the books while others would walk away with a philosophical explanation and may give deep levels of understanding. But we all walk away with something different.

What I’m getting at here is that stories can’t just be written to TELL the reader a story, there has to be intricate levels to your story to make it worthy of any publisher. They have to see that deeper hidden meaning, whether subtle or an in-your-face kind of meaning.

So how do we build a story? We take it brick by brick; layer upon layer, and give the novel shape. You can write twenty thousand words or eighty thousand words, if they have no shape, no structure, your tale will fall flat and on blind eyes, not one glance.

Here I go with the house metaphor again. You see a plot of ground (blank page) and you want to build on it (write a novel.) You are not going to just start building the walls, floor and roof are you? You’re going to check that the foundation (the meat of your story) is sound. This is where the outline becomes your best tool. The outline gives you a visual of how the story begins, all its ups and downs, riddled with conflicts, and a possible ending to your tale. Without an outline, you’re writing without a foundation.

You need to be the architect of your story. You shouldn’t write a tale, then decide, “Hey, I should have checked the foundation first.” You’ll find that after ten revisions, your story still isn’t grabbing the reader after the first chapter. What did you do wrong? You more than likely built your novel on sand and now will have to work extra harder in finding the solid ground it has to stand on in order to be published.

Lyrics: On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand; All other ground is sinking sand.

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