Archive for December, 2009

Planning and Plotting

I haven’t started writing TMA02 yet. I’ve procrastinated a lot, and definitely done a lot of thinking about it, which can’t hurt.

What I have been doing, however, is an experiment.

In my last TMA-related post, I explained how I was quite worried about knowing where to start, particularly with regard to the narrative structure, point of view and that kind of thing. Those problems aren’t solved, exactly, but I do have a starting point now.

I was trying to pack too much into my stories; they were like mini-novels, and that’s not how it should be. I have also never really planned a short story, preferring to sit down and see where the ideas take me.

On the advice of many people, I have been reading more short stories to familiarise myself with the genre.  A couple of months ago I read Raymond Carver’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, which is a short story collection. Raymond Carver is a highly celebrated short story writer, praised particularly for his stark and concise prose, in which he says so much with very few words.

I noticed that one of his stories had a structure which could be mapped onto a story idea I had for my TMA, and was of a similar length. So I made a table:

Section Word Count Function Raymond Carver’s Story My Story
A 350 Brief summary of why RC added this section – what it achieved in the overall structure and progress of the story. Very brief outline of what happens in Section A. Based on the ‘Function’ column, a brief outline of what could happen in my story in a similar amount of words.

In the end, the Raymond Carver story divided neatly up into seven sections, and the word count was similar to the 2,200 TMA requirement. Completing the table was relatively quick and easy, and by the end I had a full story plotted out. My story, I hasten to add, is completely different to the Carver story I looked at, but it is structurally matched in a way which will probably be imperceptible once it is written.

I can’t say whether this will be successful for my TMA or not, but I have enjoyed it as an exercise in deconstructing the short story. What does everyone else think?

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Books Read 2009

The Magus by John Fowles
The New Confessions by William Boyd
Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis
She by H. Ryder Haggard
Katherine by Anya Seton
As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning by Laurie Lee
The Bolter by Frances Osborne
The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barrie
The Outsider by Albert Camus
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
When We Were Orphans by Kazuo Ishiguro
The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire by Amanda Foreman
Arthur and George by Julian Barnes
Howards End by E.M. Forster
Madame Bovary by Gustav Flaubert
A Man of Property by John Galsworthy
In Chancery by John Galsworthy
To Let by John Galsworthy
The White Monkey by John Galsworthy
Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates
Farenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Jules et Jim by Henri-Pierre Roche
Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
Twilight by Stephanie Meyer
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
The Sleepless Moon by H.E. Bates
Elevent Kinds of Loneliness by Richard Yates
The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks
The Go-Between by L.P. Hartley
Bonjour Tristesse by Francoise Sagan
On Writing by Stephen King
The End of the Affair by Graham Greene
Saturday by Ian McEwan
Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger
The Enchanter by Vladimir Nabokov
White Teeth by Zadie Smith
I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
The Believers by Zoe Heller
What We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver
Young Hearts Crying by Richard Yates
We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver
The Suspicions of Mr Whicher by Kate Summerscale

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