Friday, October 12, 2012

Story Arcs, Plot Threads and Subway Maps

I was watching the story board on geek and sundry today (Check it out, really great writing discussions. and they were talking about form and function of our writing. Do we plan out arcs or do we work toward and ending? It got me thinking about how I do things in my own writing.

I've avoided writing about how I write so far because there doesn't seem to be much rhyme or reason to it. Some stories start because I came up with a cool concept and want to expand it into a story. Others because I thought of an interesting character and the story they had to tell. Most of the time it's a scene, or series of scenes that I want to tie together. Or an ending that I want to work toward.

I listened to the writers in the Story Board episode each give a different answer, and found myself identifying in part with each one. I wondered if I was a bit of an anaomly or if it was because I'm still a fairly young writer, still figuering out my own voice and style.

I see writers do the same type of thing in the same genre and in the same medium and marvel at how they could ever do that. In the past week I've gotten ideas for an animated comedy, a movie and a comic book. All radically different in themes and style, each with their own "voice."

I've always felt that the story can only be told the way that story can. My voice changes depending on the story I'm telling, just as it would in real life. My tone and vocabulary constantly shift to best serve the story I'm working on at the moment.

As for Arcs, that too has always befuddeled me. I study them of course, I learn about three, five and seven act structures. About the Hero's Journey and the Monomyth and all ways you can tell a story. While experiance is invaulable, studying the ways old old is equally important.

Though when I write I rarely find myself thinking in terms of first, second and third acts. I think things like, "Okay this is when things really start to ramp up" or "We just went through a lot of action, we need a breather."

I had a realization when Terry Brooks said he wrote in threads. This character's thread or that plot point's thread. As he said it an image jumped into my mind.

That colorful mess of lines is the DC subway map. I realized that's how I think about stories. Each color is a character or or plot thread. They all have their own individual course, their own path through  life and destinations to reach. Occasionally those destinations are shared, scenes where character's meet and interact. Way station on their trip through life.

I realized that was how I thought of stories. Though they usually look less like the picture above and more like this one.

That's the one for Tokyo in case you were wondering.

To think of complicated stories as the rise and fall of a simple arc is to discredit them of their inherent, complicated beauty. While others may see a tangled web of colors, the mad scratching of a toddler, I see countless stories woven together by my characters lives. Each stop representing some triumph or defeat, a confrontation or an emotion struggle in their lives.

So that's how I think about story. How do you write arcs and plot threads and what image does it bring to your mind?

Remember to check out Story Board on Geek and Sundry and our Around the Trunk Podcast where we talk more about writing. You can also follow me on Twitter @MadnessSerenade.

No comments:

Post a Comment