a valuable lesson

Posted on July 31, 2008

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How many of us, truthfully, when writing fiction, pay attention to the concepts of Crisis, Catalyst and Climax? In fairness, I knew next to nothing about it until my wonderful scriptwriting lecturer, Felicity Packard, hammered it into my thick skull last semester.

I learned a important lesson recently that involved applying those concepts. I was in the process of developing my freelance writing project that I am to do this semester at uni. The task set is a ‘novella’ of 10-15,000 words in length. I went through the process of character development, storyboarding everything in great detail. Each scene was carefully mapped out. Notes were made on how to engage the reader’s senses in each scene. All was set for lodging my project proposal, or so I thought. Almost right at the last minute, it occurred to me to have a closer look at my Crisis, Catalyst and Climax set-up, as they in effect setup my story arc and more importantly, my protagonist’s transformational arc. Whoops – it dawned on me that during the climax of the story, my protagonist had become little more than a bystander. She wasn’t the one undergoing the all important change, despite all of her involvement in everything up to that point. That climactic scene is being overhauled, to the betterment of the whole story. All thanks to the simple application of those principles.

Over the last few months, I have come to three main conclusions. Every aspiring fiction writer should:

  1. read Stephen King’s On Writing
  2. read Elizabeth George’s Write Away
  3. study with a teacher as damned good as Felicity Packard – one of the writers of the Underbelly series – good scriptwriting needs structure and the amount I learned in my first three months of working with Felicity was simply staggering.

I can say in all honesty that I now wonder how in blazes I ever managed to get anything published before.

Of course we don’t all have that last luxury. I fell into it more by accident than anything else. So instead, we need to learn all that we can from other sources. Future posts will be referring to where some of that great stuff can be found from other sources.

Oh and before I forget – my last post mentioned Finnegan’s Wake by James Joyce. After repeated attempts to read it, at present I am left with the inescapable conclusion that it is incomprehensible gibberish. In desperation, I tried a simple exercise. I repeatedly opened the book at random and read unrelated passages. Almost every time I found myself faced with more made-up words, paragraphs running for more than a page with sentences so long that by the time you reached the end, you had no idea how they started. And even after returning to the beginning of said sentence to read once more, I still had no idea what the hell it was all about.

My positive affirmation is starting to flag.

Poetry is good. (even though Finnegan’s Wake is prose as far as I can tell)

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