Writing the synopsis for my novel, I have been following the guidelines on structuring and planning a story as set out by my writing course. For a long time (over a year), I was frustrated by the repeat of questions about my main character’s desire, the challenges she faces, the stakes etc, not to mention the tediousness of breaking each component of my story into setup, complication and payoff . I was sure I was sapping my story of any originality and killing any joy in the creative process, but I trudged along hoping it would all get better and easier. Well, it did. At least it got better – easy hasn’t happened yet.
I had a breakthrough some months back, finally understanding the purpose to all the planning. Now I can see that breaking up my story into discrete story units each with a set up, complication and payoff, and a central dramatic question raised and usually answered, makes for a multi-layered, complex and engaging story. The hard work in all this planning will ensure there is purpose to my prose, and down the track, when I spend more time on the narrative, my character (to borrow loosely from a Kurt Vonnegut quote) will have a purpose even while drinking a glass of water- perhaps with a central dramatic question of whether she sees it as half empty or half full. Okay, I butchered that. The actual quote is “Make your characters want something right away even if it’s only a glass of water. Characters paralyzed by the meaninglessness of modern life still have to drink water from time to time”.
I know not everyone follows such a format when they write a novel, but this is the only way I know how, it being my first attempt, and I am glad to be learning so much. Surrendering to the process which once felt stifling, I appreciate that setting boundaries for the creative process by defining character arcs, central dramatic questions and a theme to name just a few elements, I can create an intricate world to explore through my character’s particular circumstances and life view- a richer, more authentic human story than I would tell if my character’s inner and outer world lacked the connection that comes with consideration and planning.
My revelation also extends to a belief I now hold, that even if my story is never published nor read by anyone other than my tutor, It is worthwhile simply because it is a life teacher, a sentiment captured beautifully in an M.C.Richards quote I came across in Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way All the arts we practice are apprenticeship. The big art is our life. Another brilliant quote, also found quoted in The Artists Way, and attributed to Alain Arias-Mission is The purpose of art is not a rarefied, intellectual distillate- it is life, intensified, brilliant life.
These are some of the lessons that have been revealed to me on my parallel writing and life journey: Continue reading →