Saturday, June 4, 2011

Catching Up

REALLY?! January? What the hell?

Okay, this is where I should promise never to let a lapse like that happen again, dedicate myself for more faithful blogging, and leave it at that, right? Well, screw that. I came here to blog.

One of the exercises I ran for this past semester's class (everyone passed!) was something I'm calling Thread Pulling. Take one thread of a story, be it a plot thread, character thread, anything that's consistently present but changes from beginning to end, and yank it out; isolate that thread's actions in the story. The story we used was the movie Chinatown, and students built these threads in an effort to understand everything that was happening in this very dense film. We ended up with six threads, each of the pretty long and complicated.

Over the past few days, I've tried adapting this technique to my novel project, isolating the main characters and figuring out what the story is from just their perspective. I've finished only two threads so far, but it's filled in a LOT of questions I hadn't even bothered asking about the beast yet. By the time I finish the threads, I hope to have a much better understanding of what my end product will look like.

The next phase of the student project was to re-weave their threads into a single swatch of story, with the ultimate goal of reworking it into a piece of prose. This mostly involved putting each thread side by side and connecting them where we could. Sometimes it was easy, two characters talking at a table links their stories just about automatically. Others were trickier - sometimes a character will be alone in the middle of a riverbed, but what they find or learn there triggers something in another thread, so a link needs to be established. It was a painful assignment in some ways, but by the end of it they knew this story so well, adapting it into a novel was almost a relief.

Visually, this is hard to pull off simply because it can take up a lot of room, and technology doesn't necessarily help for the limits screen size can create. Once I get it done, though, each moment and each connection I visualize will be something to write for the novel. These kinds of headaches I can look forward to.

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