1. Seppuku
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    Seppuku Member

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    Structure/Balance system

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Seppuku, Aug 7, 2009.

    This might be useful to anybody or somebody might be able to give some input.

    But I've been editing my short story and because I can't show it to anybody or get feedback, it's actually been difficult to tell whether it's any good, so I've been trying to tear it apart to see if it works. So what I've actually done is split up my story into sections and put them into a diagram (using MS Excel) and given each section a heading and made boxes of a size depentant on the word count. I can see how much 'development' and 'conflict' I've put in - I could look for elements, but my piece is very character central. You'll probably see that quite a bit of the story is development, notably there's a big block in the middle. This means I can look at my work and ask myself 'can I justify these big blocks?'

    Here is my diagram:

    [​IMG]

    Has anybody else worked like this? If so what is your system?
     
  2. Ashleigh
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    Ashleigh Contributing Member Contributor

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    Structurally it could all be absolutely perfect, if your looking to actually stereotype the structure of a good novel or short story - but it matters for absolutely nothing if the skill for writing just isn't there.

    I don't understand what you mean by 'System'. You can't just slot a load of seemingly perfect elements together and hope that it magically means that you've just churned out the world's most perfect story.

    A story should write itself - and by that I mean that every great piece starts with a great idea. The rest is up to the flow of your fingertips - your own creativity and the ability to present it well.

    Sticking in a few 'hooks' here, and a little more 'conflict' there isn't going to satisfy the reader any more than it would if you slapped a guy in front of him holding up signs saying 'Look impressed' and 'Ooohh' and 'Aaah' in front of them.

    You need to look at your work as a whole and not as fragments. The entire thing should flow together and the plot should blend together completely seemlessly. It strikes me that if you look at things this way, then your writing will be just a blocky and missmatching as the table you've just drawn.

    My advice is scrap the table and read the story through -observe your work as an ideal reader would, and not as some statistical database. You'll do nothing but suffocate your creativity and kill your imagination completely.

    And for what it's worth - if you believed in your work, you wouldn't need such 'systems'.

    IMO I've just given you some good advice there - I hope you see where I'm coming from.

    EDIT: Something I've noticed....your 'hook' shouldn't last for 37 words...surely that should be a running thing all the way through? I mean why should somebody read your story if you've held up a sign saying 'HERE'S THE HOOK' for 37 words and expected them to care for the rest of it?
    I think you seriously need to whipe the slate clean here. Stop judging your work by numbers.
     
  3. jwatson
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    jwatson Active Member

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    looks okay, I guess...
    I could never work like this though...
     
  4. Kas
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    Kas Contributing Member

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    I don't see how this makes any sense. . All of those things tend to merge in good writing.

    A single sentence can hook the reader by revealing something (development/plot/characterisation/description of setting). An action can tell you something about the character's personality while advancing the plot, and also possibly provide information about the setting, all of which happens to hook you because it's interesting. . . All of this can be just a simple statement. Long, convoluted sentences aren't required to do all that.

    With just a few words, you can say many things. It's called efficiency. A graph could never reflect that.

    Maybe I'm missing something.:confused:
     
  5. Seppuku
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    Seppuku Member

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    I think I've been misunderstood and thus have hit a nerve, perhaps I've not made what I've done/am doing clear. ;)

    Just to clear up:

    I'm not judging my work via the use of tables or graphs - I kind of hoped nobody would jump to that conclusion. I've read through it several times and have been doing some editing. But I figured I'd take a step back and look at what I've written structurally. After all stories have structure, whilst it's not the most important thing to think about, but I don't see where I've suggested that other than that it's what I'm looking at.

    What I am doing is using the structure of my story to analyse what I've written, but as experimentation. Conflict is one of those elements that can make something interesting as it can be a point of change or where the reader is asking the most questions about a character or the plot. Development is where the reader is learning more about the character or some other area where something might 'develop'. Stepping back and looking at it structurally I think has allowed me to question what I've written from a different point of view. Whilst it may sound right when I read it, there might be some things I overlook when reading through it. In this case, I've asked myself whether or not I need those 700+ words of development in the middle and have read through it thinking - does it do what I want it to do? Or would it be better shortened? Is it fine the way it is?

    So this is NOT some formula for writing a story, but just how I've mapped the structure of my existing story out as part of my editing process (but not any major part) and was wondering if anybody edited by any similar means. I've not pieced my story together by going 'ooh conflict' or 'ooh this is hook here' - it started from an idea, I built on that idea, added bits, threw bits away until I had my first draft. Then I researched some of my content for my second draft and so on.


    Also, the 'hook' I refer to is the part which catches the reader on first hand, whilst I agree a story should keep the reader 'hooked', however, it's not what I mean. That small part of the opening where somebody catches your story and they're drawn in is what I understand as 'the hook', judging by what I understand, readers looking at a short story will only read a small amount before continuing. As goes the phrase, "the first line sells your story and the last line sells your next one". When I pick up a book or open up to a short story in a magazine or collection, I won't read a significant amount of it, if it grabs me, I'll read it - if it doesn't then I won't. After all, if I'm going to buy something or spend time reading it. I'm going to want to feel as though it'll be interesting and this is what 'the hook' is when I've referred to it and when I've seen it referred to. Perhaps the phrase: "the first line sells your story, the last line sells your next one" is appropriate. In way it's like that efficiency Kas described.

    Peace.
    :)
     
  6. JavaMan
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    JavaMan Senior Member

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    Personally, I think it is a very good idea to break a story down into parts for structural analysis. A story is regarded as a whole, but a person would be committing a big mistake to think that the fragments do not add up to make a whole.

    To examine the structure of something requires some form of analytical thought. That means that a person must have some method to explain or measure something. A person can say all they want about systems of analysis or storytelling but the fact remains that a good story is complete - a system in itself.

    Your whole diagram is simple to understand - you just want to see how much emphasis you are putting on the parts of your story. I'll admit that by itself it seems more quantitive than qualitive, though.
     
  7. Seppuku
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    Seppuku Member

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    Thank you, JavaMan, those were my intentions. ;) Alongside how I've set it out there, I've got a version that has summaries for each part, so I have one that's quantitive and another that's qualititive.

    Cheers.
     
  8. Ashleigh
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    Ashleigh Contributing Member Contributor

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    Personally I think that anybody who judges their work by fragments is trying to use maths as a way of disguising their lack of creativity.
    Just because you can draw up a table to recognise what you've attempted to do doesn't mean that you successfully achieved it - only a reader can tell you that. We can all write up a checklist and tick it off one by one, but ultimately what we percieve to be a 'hook' and 'developement' and 'conflict' might seem like one big sack of crap to anybody that reads it. In which case, I think it'd be foolish to turn back to your graph and say 'But when I analysed my story It was perfect! where did I go wrong?'.

    You can either work it to death, over analyse, over-structuralise it, and completely tarnish the soul of your piece, or you can write to the best of your ability and then let it go.

    I understand that you aren't trying to create some writers-guide-to-perfect-stories by making this table, but I believe you are completely over structuralising your own work by doing so. Also, you are only gratifying your desire to believe that your story couldn't possibly get any better because you're happy with the fact that it's got equal amounts in all literary devices and features.

    Ultimately your table means absolutely zilch if your audience thinks that your story was rubbish, and if you get it in your head that drawing up tables to judge the quality of your piece will work then you'll be sorely disappointed. Alternatively they might love your story - but was it because you analysed it with a graph, or was it because you put your heart into it and used skills that supposedly come natural to you? I'm guessing it's the latter.

    I think it'd be important for you to remember that writing is an art. It is not an 'Analytical system'. I find things like this quite disrespectful towards creative writing - you're insulting its very meaning if you start to use statistics and data to analyse something that requires thought and invention.

    Try and remember that posting things up on this website and asking for an opinion usually means that you'll get one - just because they differ to what you've been telling yourself doesn't mean that they're wrong; It's just somebody elses opinion, and it certainly doesn't mean that you've 'hit a nerve'.
     
  9. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    I agree with Ashleigh.

    I think you're missing the point if you try to quantify the creative process. Writing a piece of fiction should be a process that flows as a whole, not a scientific dissection and arrangement, like some sort of Frankenstein's monster.

    Analysing literature is interesting and can be useful, but really it is an art. It's going to mean different things to different people, depending on their individual perspective. A science, conversely, relies on definite fact. I really don't agree with the idea of trying to force creative writing into a scientific category- it's like a square post in a round hole.
     
  10. jonathan hernandez13
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    jonathan hernandez13 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think its neat, thanks for the table!

    There is more than one way to tell a story, and if we all followed that particular table to the T we would all be nothing more than emotionless law-obeying writer automatons.

    I think the point Seppeku was driving at was that a story should have a certain structure, and gave us a cool example.
     
  11. Ashleigh
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    Ashleigh Contributing Member Contributor

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    writing in a notebook is cooler.

    Bad Jonathan/Dom.:mad:
     
  12. jonathan hernandez13
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    jonathan hernandez13 Contributing Member Contributor

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    lol, ow Ash
    (hangs head low in shame and skimpers away)
     
  13. Ashleigh
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    Ashleigh Contributing Member Contributor

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    :p Don't forget this:

    [​IMG]
     
  14. jonathan hernandez13
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    jonathan hernandez13 Contributing Member Contributor

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    thats a def, cant go far without my lancer:rolleyes:
    what was I thinking?
     
  15. Ashleigh
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    Ashleigh Contributing Member Contributor

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    Don't think. Just kill. [war is all we know]

    LOL. :p
     
  16. Forkfoot
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    Forkfoot Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think if Robin Williams were teaching a high school class on creative writing, and that table was in the textbook he was teaching from, he would make the students rip it out.
     
  17. jonathan hernandez13
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    jonathan hernandez13 Contributing Member Contributor

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    and then he would make a dozen spastic jokes in a minute and comment on how hairy he is?:redface:

    I love Robin but he is so hyper on camera:D
     
  18. Seppuku
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    Seppuku Member

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    You see I disagree that I'm use maths to disguise creativity. I don't even think I'm being mathematical about it. I thought I explained it simply: a story has struture and when you're editing, one of the things you might look at is the structure of what you've written. But what it seems is that you think this is the ONLY means I'm judging my work and that I've paid no other considerations. Structure is a small part of what I'm editing and by setting my structure out on to a separate piece of paper just tells me how much I've written on an area. As for creativity, when you write your story it can be completely creative and roll straight from pen onto paper and you have your story...that's how I hope most first drafts are written, however, it doesn't necessarily make it interesting nor may it be exactly the way you want. And editing is all a part of the process. But I find changing things, moving them about so that they're better is all a part of the creative process. I wasn't entirely happy with my first draft hence I'm editing. I'm not entirely happy with my current draft. Hence I'm still editing. I wasn't entirely sure about how I structured it - I though perhaps it could be done a bit differently and thus I labelled each 'part' of the story and tagged them with a summary, so I could look at the structure with out continuously reading through my piece. I found it to be more effective and I am happier with the results, hence I decided to share how I approached it.

    But if you think my approach to writing is mathematical or statastical then you're mistaken. In terms of 'analysis', I mean the term in the same way you might review somebody's work - when you read somebody's work you have to analyse what they've written so you can describe what you think needs improving and how you'll think you'll improve it, other wise you'd just say; "that paragraph doesn't work" without actually knowing 'why' it doesn't work. Take that concept and apply it to what I'm doing.

    That's not exactly fair. I don't see how I've gone and applied this and said, "there it's perfect". I'm still in the editing stage of my work and this was just an idea that helped me think about the structure of my story.

    Yes and even an artist thinks about structure, painters, poets, musicians, sculpters etc.

    I realise that and I am perfectly aware that asking for an opinion gets one, as it has on previous threads I've made and what I've put up in the review section. I felt patronised by your first post, so I figured I must have tripped a nerve. I would say that I could've been mistaken, but your second post seems to be purposefully rude (being called an insult to the meaning of creative writing, told that I'm disguising my 'lack' of creativity and that I'm over gratifying my desire that my story won't get any better). I can take criticism, considering criticism no matter how rude is still fair criticism, though I kind of didn't expect to see it here.
     
  19. Kas
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    Kas Contributing Member

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    Lmao, I can totally see that.

    I wrote a lengthy post kinda like Ashleigh's, but scrapped it.

    I think the gist of what I was trying to say is that you need to figure out what a good story should contain, particularly within your genre/style, and understand how it should flow and develop to keep the reader interested. Then ask yourself, point by point, if your story does this. You can write up a list of things, starting on your forehead, and ending on the big toe of your left foot. . but that's about as far as the 'analysing' should go.

    Work to understand what good writing is. Work to understand what a good story is and does. Try to make sure your story is that.

    The word count graph is, while mildly interesting, completely useless information, IMO. The editing process is just so much more intuitive than that, and the word count data doesn't really say anything about the piece. You should be able to determine whether or not you've got too much description etc just by looking at it. You don't need a graph!:p

    EDIT: lol I think there's just a total communication train wreck happening here.:p
     
  20. Ashleigh
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    Ashleigh Contributing Member Contributor

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    I have absolutely no problem with plotting and editing - I do it myself every day.

    Artists do these things, but they don't completely blugeon it to death by analysing it from all possible angles, even if it means turning the art upside down and inside out just to do it.

    I think we're over-labouring this. Obviously your table makes you feel better about your work, so go with it - but given that you asked what people thought of it, I think i'm entitled to say that I disliked it, and tell you why. I didn't mean to patronize.
     
  21. Seppuku
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    Seppuku Member

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    Not should. But structure is something you might think about when you're editing and I put each part of my story under a label with summaries for each part and this allowed me to view how my story was structured. No mathematics. No formulas. The only numbers there are to show how much I spent on each section - there's no mathematical way of look at those numbers. I'm not restricting myself by numbers (other than the 3,000 word limit).
     
  22. Seppuku
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    Seppuku Member

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    I think you're entitled to what you think and I still disagreed and thought you misunderstood what I meant. No problem about the patronisation, I could still be mistaken, so I'll just leave that be. ;)

    But the thing is, I'm not blugeoning it to death, it's an experiment from some editing I was doing this afternoon - after writing up the table and summaries, I asked myself 'am I happy with how I've set this out?' and changed what I think needed changing, but considered everything in my piece as whole in doing so. I can see what you're saying, that over-editing can kill the story without you realising it and that's heard loud and clear and that's probably the advice I'll take from this.

    Cheers.
     
  23. Ashleigh
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    Ashleigh Contributing Member Contributor

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    Fair enough - Sorry, I just tend to go off on a tangent, lol. There's no such thing as 'straight and to the point' with me.

    I'm not exactly clear with my arguments either - I tend to start ranting with arguments that I might not even agree with, hah.

    Didn't mean to tear your project apart - I appreciate that it probably took alot of effort and concentration to put it together. Good luck with your story :)
     
  24. Kas
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    Kas Contributing Member

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    Well, experimentation is always good. That's a creative process in itself.;) Whatever works to improve your story is what you should do.

    Just be sure to get some impartial feedback along the way, to be sure that what you're doing is actually beneficial, and that the changes are positive. I'm actually curious to read your story now. . . You could send me a PM if you like.

    Good luck with your writing.:)

    And "cheers" is mine. Mine, I tell you! I hold the copyright. You'll be hearing from my lawyer shortly.:cool:
     
  25. Seppuku
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    Seppuku Member

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    No problem Ashleigh, no hard feelings. ;) But I am glad everything is clear. I can see your sentiments about writing, and you (and others) emphasised some important principles for writing, so I'll know better to avoid breaking them (and any observers). :D

    Thank you.

    Indeed, I quite enjoy getting feedback, but perhaps for this particular thread I should have taken my own advice, I just checked my signature and any comments should be taken with a pinch of salt and some patience.

    As for my story, I hope it lives up to the hype. ;) I'm sending it off for a magazine competition (Writers' Forum Magazine) and I'll probably try and get critique after that, they don't accept any 'published' entries and having it on the internet counts. If by chance I win, then I'll have to show it, otherwise what else is going to feed my ego?

    Oh, that guy? I told him to send my apologies. He was a lovely bloke, he was very co-operative. I could find no way to thank him but to say 'cheers' on his way out.
     

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