Over the past few weeks we’ve been exploring the way writing is structured, with an ever-closer focus.
This last post on structure takes us to the deepest level – the way paragraphs and sentences are arranged.
One of the biggest problems most writers have to face is translating the way we actually think and imagine things – which is usually as a ‘simultaneous picture’ – into writing, which is a single linear thread.
It’s failure to tackle this problem, I think, that produces non-fiction in which half the side-points are relegated to footnotes. And fiction riddled with flash-backs.
The key to the problem is deconstruction – being able to take that ‘simultaneity’ of ideas and fit them together in linear form. What comes first? The approach we looked at last time – ‘organising principle’ – works at this level too.
The best starting point is that old adage of starting big and moving on to detail. Say you’re describing a scene from a character’s viewpoint. Their first impression will always be the big picture, moving on to the details as they notice them. The nature of how they notice those details may be a reflection of their character – remembering that fiction is a way of taking readers on an emotional journey.
It’s often harder in non-fiction, where the organising principle may not be chronology, but a theme or idea. Different components have equal weighting in the big picture – making it difficult to figure out which one might come first. But, again, organising principles help.
The key point to bear in mind for all writing – non-fiction and fiction alike – is that it is taking the reader on an emotional journey. And sometimes, the nature of that journey can itself become a device for ordering the content.
Next – look at some of the nitty gritty of novel writing, genre content and other stuff.
Copyright © Matthew Wright 2013
Coming up this week: more sixty second writing tips, inspirations, geekery – and a spot of history.