Monday, 6 February 2017

Building a Framework - by Debbie Bennett

So this is the front our house as of February 2017. They put the scaffolding up a few weeks ago, but a combination of bad weather and our roofer needing to buy a new van has prevented anything actually happening yet. The latest date we've been given is Monday for the guys turning up to strip off the entire roof, re-batten, re-felt and replace all the unbroken slates. There's a stack of new slates around the side to replace the many that are cracked and broken.

The view from the top is amazing - so I'm told! You'd never get me up there in a million years. I don't do heights (a bad experience playing in derelict houses as a child - 4 storeys up and out on the roof when I put my foot through a rafter...), so I leave it to Andy to climb up these things and take the photographs! That's the Intercity West Coast mainline service you can see across the fields - we're about 10 minutes out of Crewe towards Liverpool.

Both storeys and stories need structure. And views from the top, if only to see how far you've come! Without a structure, you're likely to get a soggy bit in the middle, if the whole thing doesn't collapse entirely. You need a support framework, with bits at each level and something to hold the whole thing together into a cohesive whole - your bricks and mortar of your story. Shorts and novels are no different in that respect; although you can get away with more in a short story, you still need a basic structure to hang your words on.

Whether you're a plotter or a pantser doesn't really matter. Some writers prefer to put their scaffolding up according to the plans then build their house carefully, making sure all the windows are in the right place and all the internal wiring is correct, lighting up the right rooms. Others prefer to create something more organic and grow their scaffolding with the house, adding more bit as and when needed. Whether it's instinct, experience, or simply following the guidelines, that structure has to be there in some form or another.

So many books I read lack a coherent structure. And while I'm a fairly tolerant reader and I'm willing to forgive the odd ramble, diversion and blind alley, do it too often and I'll put the book down and go and read something else. I do like to feel confident that what I'm reading is in some way contributing to the overall story arc and isn't just the author satisfying some desire to show us how much he knows about his pet specialist subject or making some kind of moral point. There's nothing that turns me off faster than a blurb that tells how how I'm going to feel excited, thrilled and marvel at blah blah blah. I'll decide that, thanks very much - after I've read the book.

And if you get it right, you can build an entire housing estate using the same structure. Satisfy the reader with your detective or adventurer, and you can take them through an entire series of novels with a reader fan base eagerly awaiting the next one.

And the view from the top of your structure? Looking forwards to building the next one!


2 comments:

Wendy Jones said...

Great analogy Debbie. I agree a decent structure can help to g8ve a book the proper shape. This way it will look like a house and not a folly

Dennis Hamley said...

Absolutely spot on, Debbie.Every aspect of a story must have a convincing answer to the simple question 'Why are you there?' and the answer must be, 'Because the story wouldn't work without me, and this is why . . .'