I Had An Idea.

While working on the fifth…that’s right, FIFTH…revision of Strange Beasts, I suddenly had an epiphany.

I’ve always been pretty set on the structure of the book. In fact, I don’t think I’ve once revised the overall flow of the thing’s structural breakdown. The book is broken into large, named sections, which are then further divided into numbered chapters. The sections themselves vary in lengths, usually between 10 to 100 pages. Sections can jump back and forth in time, but each is self-contained. Numbered chapters focus on a single character, though the characters change with each of those chapters, jumping all over the place.

Here’s an example I just made up:

This is the section name

[PAGE BREAK]

One

Big monster goes smash smash on some buildings. People scream.

Two

Agnes cusses a lot and complains about some stuff.

Three

Another character does some things but then daydreams about some stuff that happened earlier.

And so on. Nothing fancy; I just wanted something functional that made it clear when the story was changing perspectives and/or periods of time.

I’ve already expressed my frustrations with the website Authonomy (here they are, if you care to read a bunch of disappointed bitching), but one of the common criticisms of the sections I posted there is that some of the numbered chapters seem to have nothing happening in them. Of course, I disagree; I think all of the numbered chapters further something, be it plot, characters’ motivations or the setting. Which, by the way, isn’t to say I think everything I’ve written is gold; Lord knows I’m dispensing of paragraphs like Joss Whedon dispenses of supporting characters. But, just because a numbered chapter doesn’t specifically push the plot forward doesn’t mean it belongs on the cutting room floor.

That said, I think that particular criticism does have some merit. No matter what I say, numbered chapters do seem to suggest that something is going to happen to move things forward. They need to stand on their own somewhat. Once that idea was planted in my head, I couldn’t shake it away. Suddenly, Mayor Vaudry Crawford’s reflective drive through the empty small town he calls home seems unnecessary because nothing actually happens to him. I think there’s good, important stuff in there; it’s just not driving action.

But, I came up with a fix. Instead of numbering the chapters, I’m utilizing an old novelist standby.

Asterisk, Asterisk, Asterisk  (or, ***)

It’s a simple change, but I think it helps ease the transition from chapter to chapter and makes each section seem more cohesive. Now, it doesn’t matter if the paragraphs between asterisks specifically push the story forward. They are clearly a small part of a whole. The poor things no longer have to stand on their own looking awkward and stupid.

Sure, it’s just a perception thing, but one I think will make a big difference overall. I’m pretty excited about it…which is pretty lame now that I think about it.

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