Some notes on Dara Marks' Transformational Arc

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  • #2575

    Raine
    Participant

    To allow me to share this wider, I’m posting my notes on the Transformational Arc from Dara Marks’ book ‘Inside Story’.

    Here’s the pretty graph itself:

    Dara Marks’ Transformational Arc

    The Transformational Arc expands/combines the basic character arc and 3 act structures into this:

    Act I: Character is in ‘Resistance’ – at the start of the story they are unaware of the need to change their behaviour/life/viewpoint.
    The ‘Inciting incident’ is the initial event in the external world that applies pressure on the character and motivates them to act.
    The ‘Defining moment’ is the first time that the character realises they may need to change, that their current state & habitual responses may not be successful.

    Act IIa: Character is in ‘Exhaustion’ – they are being pushed and pushed by external events, trying all of their previous coping mechanisms and seeing them all fail. People only change when forced to do so, so the external events must push the character towards a sort of ‘ego death’ where they are so tired of failing that they are willing to adapt.

    Act II Midpoint: Character reaches their ‘Moment of Enlightenment’ – external events force the character to finally confront and identify the nature of their ‘flaw’, by hitting them at their most emotionally vulnerable spot, sometimes called the ‘False Victory’.

    Act IIb: Character has a period of ‘Grace’ where they feel a sense of victory in having identified their flaw, they feel empowered by the knowledge and positive. But although they have identified the need to change, they haven’t learned how to do so.
    Character then enters the ‘Fall’, where external events build to their strongest and the character still has not managed to change, despite knowing they need to.

    Act II Death Experience: The worst external events that can happen to the character now do. Often involves betrayal by those closest to them. The character knows of their flaw, but knows they have failed to overcome it & now resents the need to change & fights the loss that they will incur if they do so. The turning point is the ‘False Defeat’ of realising that to change may cost the ‘death’ of the old self.

    Act III: Character enters this stage at an absolute low, generally alone. They then reach the ‘Transformational Moment’ where they must make the conscious decision to change and accept their new self. The change usually requires help of others, often someone with whom there’s been conflict so that there is both internal and external reconciliation.
    This is then closely followed by the ‘Climax’ scene of the plot where they are faced with their final challenge but this time are armed with the tools to overcome it.

    Note: This ‘Climax’ is the external dramatic moment, overcoming the external challenges/enemies. The ‘Transformational moment’ is when the internal battle is won.

    Note: A ‘tragic’ character will fail at the Transformational Moment, refusing to accept the change through fear, and thus failing to overcome external challenges in the climax. A ‘heroic’ character is determined by their ability and willingness to change at this point.

    Note: Although the main character probably needs to progress through the whole arc, other characters do not – they may start and end at different points, or be stuck at a certain point. This provides contrast and tension between characters.

    #2577

    Kate
    Participant

    This is great Raine. I’ve read a few structure books and I can see how they all reflect in this arc. It’s nice to have it in this concise summary. I’m going to print it out and pin it to the wall!

    #2578

    Philippa East
    Participant

    That’s great, @raine, and so nicely explained.

    I find so many similarities between the many varied “models” of story structure, and the many evolving models we use in psychiatry to diagnose and treat mental health conditions.

    Mental health conditions (the fairly predictable ways in which the human brain breaks down) have a sort of inherent “shape” to them, which we are ever striving to describe and model more clearly.

    Similarly, I strongly believe that stories (which we have told and passed down over 1,000s of years) have an inherent, archetypal “shape” and structure to them which writing buffs continually try to model and describe.

    Hero’s journey, Transformational arc, five commandments of story-telling, Pixar structure… they are all different ways of trying to model the inherent, archetypal “shape” of stories.

    Why do stories even have / need this shape to “work”?

    I think the “shape” of stories mirrors the psychological process of change we are all designed to go through as human beings. It’s captured in the stages-of-grief model:
    1) denial
    2+3) anger / bargaining
    4) depression
    5) acceptance

    This fits with what Raine outlines above:
    1) “resistance”
    2+3) “pushed and pushed by external events, trying all of their previous coping mechanisms and seeing them all fail”
    4) “death experience”
    5) “‘Transformational Moment’ where they must make the conscious decision to change and accept their new self”

    If we can write stories which have this fundamental, archetypal structure (whatever “model” we use to describe it) then these stories will be powerfully and deeply satisfying to our readers, because they mirror the deepest movements of our psyches.

    #2580

    Raine
    Participant

    @katemachon glad it makes some sense & hope it’s helpful! 🙂

    @philippaeast that’s so interesting. The thing that’s always drawn me to this model is how it really explores the psychology of the character and how that drives their interactions with the external world. BUt I’d never made the comparison between that and things like the stages of grief, but you are so right – it fits so well! Wow, what a powerful parallel!

    Yeah, I think it’s no surprise that a ‘good’ story holds a mirror to the psychological struggles that are kind of universal to being human. A lot of trad stories are based around teaching something (Red hiding hood – don’t go into the woods at night, or trust strangers), but we no longer need this oral learning/folklore tradition, I guess, because it’s been made redundant by science & structured education. The epic myth stories however (heroic-type tales) are much more about the personal struggle & I think modern lit has come to focus much more on this type – helping the reader process internal and external events they are struggling with or struggling to express.

    EVen horror, which really surprised me cos I’ve never seen the attraction to scaring the bejeesus out of yourself! But Hal Duncan (weegie dude at York) talked about how horror is a way of giving shape to the shapeless fears we all have, and that people in transition (kids & teens) have even more strongly. Giving the fears shape makes them manageable and therefore helps us move beyond them. Which hadn’t occurred to me before, but fits so well with the therapy tools my mum uses when she’s counselling children – often relying more on art & play than on talking as they can express the unexpressable better that way.

    Hmmm… I think I need to have a good mull over how this arc might compare to mental health illnesses. Would it work for aspects of depression? Oh I feel a graph coming on…

    #2584

    Athelstone
    Moderator

    I find this sort of structural analysis interesting – and useful because I’m convinced that there’s a kind of validity to it. So I’m really happy to steal the ideas and use them. What I’m not so sure of is whether something with a “universal” explanatory power – or even scope – is being described. And that goes for the stages of grief as well. Please don’t read this as negative (in either case) but rather as an observation that there’s something intriguing there. But I’m not sure what.

    #2585

    Alan Rain
    Participant

    Thanks for this @raine and @philippaeast.
    I think there needs to be distinction in the character’s behaviours and internalisations during these phases.

    #2588

    Squidge
    Participant

    I remember doing these sessions at York…it all seemed to make perfect sense when CMT was explaining it, but I can’t put it into practise. I don’t think I have the kind of logical and structural mind that can break a story down into these kind of segments. Which is annoying, because I know it’s all good stuff and very useful – I just can’t apply it. I seem to need something more flexible as an approach.

    #2592

    RichardB
    Participant

    I feel much the same way, Squidge. I never have been able to get on with charts, graphs, grids or any other kind of science-ish analysis. I’m not knocking it for those who find it useful, but my eyes start to glaze over when faced with such stuff, and it seems to place a barrier between me and my creativity (if any). I suppose I might conceivably be able to apply such analysis after drafting and see if what I’ve written measures up.

    Maybe that’s why none of my submissions have got anywhere.

    On the other hand (coughs modestly), I’ve been told by a professional editor that I have ‘an innate sense of structure and continuity.’

    • This reply was modified 1 year, 1 month ago by  RichardB.
    #2594

    Raine
    Participant

    @richardb and @squidge – I don’t think there’s anything wrong in not wanting to use models like these! I have a penchance for graphs, which is probably ~60% of why I love it! No – I like the tie-in between internal and external, but it’s definitely not for everyone.

    @athelstone, yeah you’re totally right, I agree it’s foolish to think that any one model/structure/explanation is going to be universal, or that models like these are set in stone in any way. It would be deathly dull if every person’s brain functioned & responded in the same pattern, and for every model there is, at the most optimistic, a distribution curve around how the population fits to it.

    But I think, and this ties in with @alanr‘s comment as well, that’s what I like about models like this though – that they start with how the character’s internal state is, then move outwards to their external behaviour, and then further out to the world’s events (including the same internal/external conflict for all the other players in the game). There’s no fixed ‘if x happens externally, then character will respond with y’ or ‘if the character is in x state internally, then their external state will be y’. It just reminds you to think about those things, and make sure your character’s individual mental state is consistent. If you think about it as simply a structured prompt to give your character a fully 3d psychology, then it looked a lot less didactic.

    I think (diving off on a tangent) that’s what I like about the concept of keeping your ‘theme’ central as well – it’s not saying that every bit of imagery or motif or sub-plot *has* to match the theme overtly, but it’s a prompt to be aware of where making all those things into thematic mirrors will heighten the power of your story.

    #2595

    Raine
    Participant

    Also @squidge – The entire universe makes profound and powerful sense when Craig talks!! 😀

    #2597

    Libby
    Participant

    Thanks for your notes, Raine. They are very helpful and come at a timely moment as I polish the structure of my novel in progress.

    A few immediate thoughts which may not stand up to scrutiny. Athelstone wonders about the universality of such frameworks. This has always been my question too. They seem to me too rigid to allow for individual differences in people/characters. One reason I like ‘Take Off Your Pants! Outline your books for faster, better writing’ by Libbie Hawker, which Kate has mentioned elsewhere and which we’re keen on in the SE Course 2016 group, is that it’s so flexible. But maybe the apparent rigidity of other models is because the illustrations they use are often fairy tales or myths. The subtleties of character and everyday life in, say, Middlemarch or Madame Bovary, and the quietness with which information can be given so that if you’re not careful you miss it, seem pushed to the background. I’m fairly committed to realism in my writing. That’s always felt like a barrier between me and these models.

    However, as I tease apart the details of my WIP (and find the yawning gaps), reading a model like this is helpful. Some aspects of the Acts can express themselves in quite subtle ways. And I’m thinking that if a part of an act isn’t there in my draft, I must ask myself why. Truth is, I could have missed something important 🙂

    Whether a framework like this is adequate for depicting mental health issues, my feeling is probably yes but it all depends on how well it is applied – how the author uses their insights. I think I could fit the framework to A Line Made by Walking, by Sara Baume, which deals with depression. If anyone wants to take up the challenge of measuring text against framework do let us know if I’m right 🙂

    PS I wrote this before Raine’s latest comment, all of which I agree with.

    #2598

    Philippa East
    Participant

    Sorry – I didn’t actually mean that story structure depicts mental illnesses.

    More that psychologists have many different models to describe particular MH conditions. For example, for depression we have the CBT model, the psychoanalytic model, the interpersonal model, the biological model etc. etc. Each model is trying to describe and explain the condition of “depression”, and each does it in a slightly different way.

    Similarly, I think there are many various models which try to map and describe the intrinsic “shape” of stories.

    I think it’s about finding the model that best helps YOU get to grip with the universal, archetypal shape of stories.

    #2601

    Daedalus
    Participant

    Lots of interesting stuff here. I’ve never been much of a planner, and am inherently sceptical of the idea of story structure as something fixed and immutable for many of the reasons Libby raises. As structures go, however, I like this one more than most as it’s fixed to the inner life of the main character rather than something that risks being external and imposed on the character. It also allows more obviously for differences in outcome – although I disagree here somewhat about the note on the ‘tragic character’. I think it is sufficient to suggest that the tragic character fails, not to specify the nature of the failure. For example, the MC in my WIP does indeed realise the need for change at the transformational moment – and the consequences of that are disastrous. The world, after all, does not necessarily respond to our internal changes. Or it might respond in unexpected ways.

    #2602

    Bella
    Participant

    I struggle with using this sort of thing as any kind of scaffolding around which to build a story. I can’t even get on with the “Take off your pants” approach, though the book itself contains much of interest and value.

    Where I do find it helpful (particularly this one) is when editing, because it can highlight areas that I may have touched on but which deserve more prominence.

    Thanks, Raine, for starting the thread.

    #2603

    Daedalus
    Participant

    Yeah, I tend to consider matters of formal structure far more in the edit than in the initial draft

    #2607

    JaneShuff
    Participant

    I too tend not too worry too much about the overall structure when I’m actually in the thick of writing a first draft but I have found that reading the various books about structure has helped me be aware of the broad sweeps of the shape of a story as I’m thinking it out.

    #2609

    Philippa East
    Participant

    @janeshuff, that’s a great way of putting it. Yes, “the broad sweeps” and then refining in the edits.

    #2630

    Daedalus
    Participant

    I was watching the film The Flight of the Phoenix earlier today, and this ‘arc’ kept occuring to me, so for the sake of curiosity I decided to have a look to see if it fit this structure, and if so, how. It’s a bit of an interesting case as it’s an ensemble piece with multiple ‘main’ characters, each with their own arc. I’ll consider it for the James Stewart character, Frank Towns – an old-fashioned ‘seat of the pants’ pilot who laments the onset of a new age of computers and scientific management of flying and indeed, the world – but throw in others from time to time.

    Act I – resistance

    An Arabco ‘Skytruck’ freighter, carrying a load of oil drilling equipment and tools, oil workers and other passengers to Benghazi, gets caught in a sandstorm and crash-lands in the desert.

    Inciting incident – the sandstorm encircles the aircraft giving it no way through (it’s unclear at this point as to whether any of the characters are at fault or whether it could have been avoided. The weather report is indicated to have been inaccurate, so despite issues brought up later, we’ll consider it an ‘act of god’ that gives Towns no choice but to attempt a forced landing when sand chokes the engines.

    Act IIa – exhaustion

    The survivors – two died in the crash, and another man Gabriele (Gabriele Tinti) is mortally injured – realise the extent of the problems they face – the aircraft is irreparably damaged, they have water for less than three weeks, they were blown off course by the sandstorm so are unlikely to be located in time by any search. Relationships become strained, with the sarcastic and antagonistic Ratbags Crow (Ian Bannen) winding up many of the survivors. Captain Harris (Peter Finch), an army officer hitching a ride with Arabco, reacting to the basic inability to do anything but wait for rescue, decides to march to the nearest settlement, 100 miles away, to fetch help. Towns, assisted by his navigator Moran (Richard Attenborough) attempts to dissuade him, citing the lack of water and vast problems of navigation in the desert meaning that even if he managed to walk 100 miles, he would be almost certain to miss the tiny mining outpost he is aiming for. Harris is unmoved, and when his sergeant, Watson, fakes an injury to prevent him going, asks for volunteers from the civilians, but vetoes an offer from Cobb (Ernest Bognine) on the strength of his physical condition. Instead, Harris takes Carlos (Alex Montoya). They leave, the others certain they will never be heard from again.

    Heinrich Dorfmann (Hardy Kruger), a previously withdrawn and aloof character, reveals a proposal to build a new aeroplane out of the wreckage of the old. He is given short shrift, most of the survivors considering his plan as symptomatic of the insanity increasingly taking over. It is revealed that Cobb was being sent home from his post as foreman with the oil company due to mental exhaustion, a move he resents and is ashamed of, considering that others think of him as a ‘headcase’ despite the assurances of the doctor, Renaud (Christian Marquand) that his condition will pass and does not reflect on him. Cobb believes this is why he was rejected to assist Harris.

    The survivors discover Cobb has slipped off to follow Harris and Carlos. Towns, already guilt-stricken over the previous deaths, follows him, but finds him dead.

    Meanwhile, Dorfmann has been working on Moran to attempt his plan. He indicates that he is an aeronautical engineer and has already completed most of the calculations and design work, together with a work schedule, to accomplish it. When Towns returns, they attempt to persuade him, but he angrily rejects the idea as suicidal and doomed to fail.

    Act II midpoint – Moran and Renaud impress upon Towns that hope has decreased to such a degree that they face a choice of waiting to die or taking some action that will at least keep the men occupied. Towns, seeing in Dorfmann everything he detests about the modern world, reluctantly agrees to at least start work.

    Act IIb – period of grace

    The work initially progresses well. Dorfmann’s ideas appear to be borne out, and morale improves. Harris is discovered having returned to the crash site but collapsed just outside – Watson spotted him, but left him there and did not tell the others. No mention is made of Carlos, who it is assumed died as Cobb did.

    Act II fall – As work nears its end, the men’s energy levels drop and they cannot maintain Dorfmann’s punishing schedule. Gabriele commits suicide, having lost all hope (and grief stricken in the belief that his wife, who he had been returning to because of an illness, had died). Towns reveals that someone has been taking more than their fair share of water, and Dorfmann admits to it on the basis that he has been doing more work than anyone else, enraging and further alienating the rest of the party. Finally, a small bedouin caravan arrives and camps beyond the next dune, offering the hope that they may not have to fly the aircraft after all. Despite warnings that they are probably a criminal raiding party who may be dangerous, Harris and Renaud go to talk to them – Watson rejects a direct order from Harris to accompany him. The two men are murdered, but did not give away the presence of the crash party. These events lead to things almost falling apart. Moran accuses of Towns of being more concerned to prove Dorfmann wrong than save the survivors, and suggests that his guilt over the men who have died is superficial. Towns retorts by accusing Moran of poor planning that led to them being caught in the sandstorm in the first place. Dorfmann refuses to manage the final completion of the aircraft – which one of the survivors, Standish (Dan Dureya) has now named ‘The Phoenix’ for obvious reasons – believing that Towns lacks the will to do his part of the job when the time comes. The pair clash when Towns insists on testing the engine, while Dorfmann refuses to countenance running the engine until they absolutely need to – the moment of the flight to freedom.

    Death moment – Dorfmann demands that Towns submit to his authority over the project or he will not supervise the final work, crucially the Phoenix’s controls, which Dorfmann has set out no plans for. Towns does so, and the last details are completed.

    Act III

    Transformational Moment – In conversation with Dorfmann, Towns and Moran discover that the former is in fact a designer of flying model aeroplanes and has never worked on a full-sized one. Despite his assurances that the theoretical knowledge knowledge required is identical, Towns and Moran are horrified and their faith is tested to the limit.

    The time comes to start the engine, which proves more difficult than expected, and requires Towns’ skills (and more importantly, requires him not to deliberately fail, which some of the party believe he will do). Starting the engine takes six of the seven starter cartridges that remain, and Towns overrules Dorfmann’s instructions as to how to accomplish this, getting the engine running through his innate mechanical sympathy. He successfully takes off and flies the cobbled-together aeroplane carrying the survivors to the nearest oasis. Dorfmann and Towns acknowledge their newfound mutual respect.

    I found that the structure fitted the ‘transformational arc’ pretty well – and moreover, did so for most of the characters. Harris proves to be a tragic character who cannot change his conviction that positive action at the soonest opportunity is always the right course, a conviction that takes three men to their deaths. Cobb dies in a vain attempt to prove that he still has worth on his own terms, failing to see that the members of the group must subjugate their individual desires to the collective good in order to succeed. Moran, the group’s diplomat, succeeds in encouraging the fractious elements of the group to work together, being the first to change his outlook that his longtime friend Towns might not have all the answers, and facing the biggest challenge to his new worldview when Dorfmann’s experience proves to be less valid than he had thought. Others are less clear. Ratbags Crow acts mainly as friction to the group dynamic, but his cynicism is seen quietly turning to hope and hard work to help the group succeed. Standish discovers reserves of character and practicality he did not believe himself capable of. Watson breaks free of the hated officer class, but presumably faces an uncertain future having disobeyed his superior officer in a way that will not reflect well on the British army. Towns is the most obvious ‘hero’, and his arc most closely follows the transformational one, as he realises that the passing of the old order and its replacement with the new is not all negative, and that some of the ‘new men’ can have value. Dorfmann, in turn, is far more of a traditional antagonist, but he eventually changes too – though the consequences of him not changing do not appear to be significant.

    Interesting exercise. Apologies for length of post!

    #2634

    Raine
    Participant

    I think I do a bit of both tbh. I do plot out the character arcs at the start, but things change as I write (as they do, the wee buggers), so by the end I need to do it all again for my major edit. That’s when Julie Cohen’s post-it notes come into play! I’m basically a walking advert for Julie and Craig.

    @daedalus re the tragic/heroic thing – it was a context lovely Craig used to talk about the fact that the ultimate ‘climax’ of the book is the moment when the character *internally* eventually truly wins over whatever their personal demons have been, and if they manage this, then they can go into the *external* grand finale with the tools to ‘win’. Where-as if they fail to be reborn into their new selves, then they will ‘lose’ in the final external conflict. I guess that concept doesn’t cover the implications of what externally ‘winning’ or ‘losing’ will be because the focus is so much on the internal. So one person becoming changed and hopefully stronger might really screw things up for others. I suppose that’s about where the character arcs of all your other characters come into play – how they mesh, or don’t mesh, with one another.

    Thinking about it, that’s what happens in my latest wip – the main ch defeats her inner demons *by destroying her sibling’s faith in themselves*. Which is kind of mean.

    @philippaeast No worries – I knew you didn’t mean that, but the mirroring between grief and this model caught my interest and made me wonder whether I was tying my depressive character’s progress to their plot in the right way. 🙂

    #2636

    Raine
    Participant

    Sorry @daedalus – for some reason your latest didn’t appear till after I’d posted the above. Really interesting breakdown there, I’d seen the film, and it came across to me (many moons ago, I admit) as extremely captivating and clever but essentially typical alpha-male adventure type thing. But no! PErhaps I should watch it again to pick up on all these nuances cos I think you are right – there are some beautifully demonstrated progressions here. And as for the ones i.e. Ratbags Crow (love that name) who seem more static – I think that makes sense too. Not everyone can be progressing through ‘the arc’ in synchrony, or in its entirety & some people won’t be progressing at all, because they are stuck at one stage or another. Wow, dead impressed both with your analysis, and with the cleverness of the film, which I guess is what has made it such a classic!

    #2639

    Daedalus
    Participant

    Thanks Raine. I’ve seen the film numerous times over the years (the first being as a very small child) and have got different things from it each time. One reading would definitely be a clash between rival alpha males. And it’s definitely in the ‘high adventure’ tradition, but I do think there’s more to it than that. Not least as ultimately it’s largely essential for everyone to put aside their own ego in order to succeed and survive. The film also changes some of the nationalities of various characters – in the novel, the Gabriele character is German and the aeronautical engineer, English. But making him German in the film added a whole other element of tension that is almost completely unspoken – unresolved hostility from WW2, apart from one exhange consisting of two or three lines. That must have been incredibly powerful in 1965 when the film came out, and Dorfmann’s harsh voice and commanding attitude, seriously jarring. That’s another reason why Towns must make a step into the future. I found it very interesting to study the minor characters’ arcs more closely than one usually might. Standish is a good example. He starts out completely failing to adapt to the situation, approaching Towns to ask when they might be expected to be rescued as he has to provide some figures to the company in time for the annual accounts to be compiled, then asks if they might put aside some of the water supply for washing. He appears in various scenes after this, usually in the background, often struggling silently with the conditions more than the others but getting to grips with the environment he finds himself in. His two most prominent appearances thereafter show him attempting to saw through the tailplane with nothing more than a hacksaw blade, tearing his hands to pieces in so doing, but carrying on until the job is done; and later, proudly and hopefully, painting the name on The Phoenix. You get the feeling that most of the characters could have been presented as the main character and had their arc front and centre, and it would have worked.

    The recent remake of the film introduced a female character played by Miranda Otto, but as it focussed more on the adventure side (and clash of alphas), I don’t know that this made much difference to the tone.

    #2640

    JaneShuff
    Participant

    I absolutely agree with you Raine about not every character progressing through their arc in synchrony and entirety but nevertheless needing some sort of arc. I have only recently realised that this gives the relationships between characters energy and life as they shift according to where they are in their ‘journey’. It is a powerful tool.

    #2641

    JaneShuff
    Participant

    Thank you for a very interesting read Daedalus. You have made me want to go and watch the film. I am

    #2661

    Hilary
    Participant

    Very interesting blog. I, too, have listened, enthralled, to Craig’s lectures on this, and have read an enormous amount of stuff about structure. I’m struggling rather with it now, at the almost-finished-the-second-draft-of-my-novel-stage. I don’t know if my struggle is because I’ve read too many different models/descriptions and have become confused; or if I haven’t understood what I’ve read; of if I’m trying to squeeze my characters and ideas into something that they won’t fit into. Sometimes I find pondering structure exciting and invigorating. Sometimes it makes me despondent and uncreative. I think I may have been successful with short stories because the arc is so much simpler, easier to see.

    #2662

    JaneShuff
    Participant

    I know what you mean, Hilary. And FWIW I try now not to worry too much about the minutiae of all the different (with a lot of similarities) theories of story structure. That way lies madness for me. I read them and enjoy them and sometimes I get a light bulb moment and often some part of them sticks in my mind and comes to the fore when I’m trying to deal with something that doesn’t work. But that may be just me as I don’t work very analytically. Things have to sink into me before I can use them. So if they’re making you despondent and uncreative, ignore them.

    It’s important too to be open to other things. Scenes and characters often don’t go the way I think they’re going to. Scenes and characters appear that weren’t in my plans. Sometimes I have to get rid of them later but most of the time they’re there for a reason – and it can take me a lot of time to work it out. I’m sure that happens to all of us.

    #2670

    Philippa East
    Participant

    I often think “getting” story structure is like one of those damn magic eye puzzles. All these people around you are like “oh yeah! It’s dolphins!!” while you’re staring at it like, “whaaa?”

    And then, you glimpse it (maybe in a CM Taylor workshop), but then it’s gone again. You glimpse it, it disappears, you glimpse it, you go cross-eyed….

    Until finally, we’ve read enough and floundered enough and absorbed enough, and we lock onto those damn dolphins. And then we start seeing them everywhere, like in Deadaleus’s film!

    #2687

    KazG
    Participant

    What a lot of clever things have been said on this thread! I have read through them all now and it’s all fascinating.

    I love Dara Marks, @raine, and your summary is brilliant. I’m getting ready to do NaNoWriMo with book two now and I’m holding these ideas in my head (as opposed to an actual firm plan, which truly is beyond me at first draft stage). While Im not a planner – more a thinker on paper, as @emmad says, lots of scribbles and musings – I find the deep structure of story profoundly satisfying and utterly fascinating. It does seem to resonate with what it is to be human, psychologically. Some stories have that satisfying ‘clunk’ to them, while others seem to skim the surface. I’m still on a learning curve with all this but really think there’s SO much there at a very deep level.

    Yes, I agree that stories that just ‘work’ do have something profound and innate that chimes with human psychology. All these books on arcs and structure attempt to pin that down. And I also think that you can do a lot with this knowledge, but equally a lot of it lurks at the subconscious level – which is when you find things bubbling up you’ve never planned. And I also feel strongly – for me anyway – that it’s so important to hold space for the subconscious to do just that. Which is why rigid pre planning doesn’t do it for me. I find out my themes and structure as I go and hack away to refine it in the edits. Not to say this is the best method, at all, but it seems to be how I work.

    @philippaeast – what really interesting thoughts! This whole thread has got me pondering. You lot are fantastic.

    #2689

    KazG
    Participant

    And now I’ve seen this and am very, VERY sorely tempted to whip out the credit card…Margaret Atwood is one of my all time lit heroes. And can I just boast that when I first started on Twitter, my first tweet was to her and she REPLIED!!

    (Twitter has never lived up to that since, needless to say..:-)

    https://www.masterclass.com/classes/margaret-atwood-teaches-creative-writing?utm_source=Paid&utm_medium=Facebook&utm_term=Aq-Prospecting&utm_content=Video&utm_campaign=MA&fbclid=IwAR3Vh9_PIoF8n__X8aZb56piYr4oDhOHgJT-X4MM503ZXGJvM86_MeRRH4Q

    #2695

    Raine
    Participant

    @kazg & @emmad – oooh, I like the phrase ‘thinker on paper’! That sounds a lot closer to what I do. For all my love of graphs and themes and character outlines, and more graphs, very little of the detail gets decided until I’m in the story. I think it’s a little like my old self’s data analysis process – first you gather all the plethora of ecological data (gathering ideas & researching), then you plot a bunch of figures to get an impression of what the data actually are and how they look (these arc sort of things), and *then* you get on with actually working your way through them (writing). It’s only in this final stage that you get to test whether your theories work, and which bits of them are significant.

    That’s not the finest ever metaphor, but maybe explains why I work the way I do now, as a writer. 🙂

    Also, MARGARET ATWOOD VIDEO MASTERCLASSES??? I might have to beg this as an xmas present. Thank-you for pointing the way, Kaz. I love you forever.

    #2696

    KazG
    Participant

    I know @raine!! It’s just too good to be true eh? AND now you love me forever 🙂 What a very fine day this is turning out to be. Back atcha BTW (and apologies to all others for PDA. She’s Scottish and I’m Aussie so the English emotion rules don’t apply :-))

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