Thursday, 16 May 2013

Plot, and Why School Lied to Me



Hey all,

There will be another free From Ash day coming up in a bit more than a week(ish); just wanted to get an early announcement out on that front. I’m not quite sure on the actual day, it might be the 25th of May, but that’s not set in stone. In other news, I’ve (for fun) started back into my incredibly strange faux-comedy-romance novel. I find it’s a nice change in the mood from a lot of the more serious doom and gloom in the Dreamstate books. I have no idea if or when that’ll be done (the romance novel), but it doesn’t have to be long, so it could be sometime soon.

Moving onto the subject of the title of this post, I wanted to talk about the pattern of the plot of the next Dreamstate and why it was causing me to panic a bit. Fear not, there will be no spoilers of the text, so you’re free to read ahead at will.

I have an English BA, which mostly entailed writing academic papers, reading other people’s academic papers, and reading medieval poetry so that I could write a paper on said poem. There wasn’t a lot of me getting to write stories about dreams and wastelands and dragons. There are creative writing majors, but it wasn’t something that I really paid attention to at the time. As such, most of my ‘how to write a story’ training comes from personal experience, books, and potentially early high school/ middle grade English classes. The problem with this, for my brain at least, is that I was really only taught (formally) that a book’s plotline develops in one, maybe two specific ways. There’s a beginning, a middle, and an end; also there’s a climax somewhere in there, possibly near the ending. Now, if I take more than a couple seconds to think about this, I know it’s not true, not really. There are an infinite number of ways to write a story with different pacing, climaxes, highs, lows, worlds, genres; anything you can think of you can do. This doesn’t change the fact that it was hammered into my brain for a very long time that there’s one way to structure a book.

For most people who don’t ever write, I assume this doesn’t really weigh heavy on their minds, or haunt their dreams. But for folk who do write, knowing that something fundamental to your education is wrong is a bit of a hurdle to get over. For instance, in Dreamstate II, there’s a section that is really quite relevant and plot changing for the entire series, but it doesn’t happen until midway through the book. It’s one of the many high points in the story, but in my mind, it made my feel like I was dragging my feet on either side of this moment. Everything beforehand felt pointless, like I was leading up to something else, even though it wasn’t, because the characters (and readers) don’t know anything is coming. Hopefully you still won’t have any idea what I’m talking about in regards to the plot when you all do read Dreamstate II. To me, however, it felt like there was something off about the way the book was structured, even though I liked everything in it. It didn’t matter what I tweaked, because it wasn’t content that bothered me, it was the actual plotline.

Last night I finally snapped out of it when I complained to my girlfriend that I was having this problem. She made a bit of a face, and then mentioned that it sounded a bit like when in The Fellowship of the Ring the hobbits reach Rivendell. It’s a crucial turning point in the trilogy, and it changes the short from the shire only journey, but no one knows that it’s coming until they’re there.

My point, if you can’t pull it out of the muck of my ramblings, is that no book needs to follow a set pattern to be correct. Things can (and should) happen all throughout the text, even new and exciting things introduced somewhere in the middle. A good book does what it wants, when it wants, and is all the better for it.

-Trevor

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