Two Camps on Structure

I’ve been writing fiction for two years now (Yay, I stuck to something), and it looks like there are two camps or schools of thought when it comes to structure in fiction.

There are those that are more or less married to the idea that all fiction should follow a determined flow. There should be a set up, two plot points, a mid-point, and a resolution. There should be a hero that’s blocked in some way from achieving a goal.

Then, there’s the other camp. This camp is a lot messier. I mean, the tents aren’t even set up. They reject, or at least their writing appears to reject, the notion that things have to lead to something. And I can see the value in this, though at times I notice it’s harder to stay focused on these types of stories. These stories better mirror life. My life doesn’t lead to a particular point. It meanders all over and I bet yours does too.

I tend to write in this camp too. I never intended too. It just feels more genuine to me. It does something for my soul.

If you want to come and check them out, I recommend you start with the work of Raymond Carver. If you don’t need big plot payoffs and you love hunting for subtext and emotionally meaning, this is your guy. I wonder if he peeked into my head while writing these stories of his. I don’t mean that I think I’m that good, I just mean I think his stuff resonates that well. Sadly, Mr. Carver passed away over two decades ago.

One of my favorite stories of his is Distance. It’s a guy recalling a story to his daughter about her early childhood. She was sick. He and his wife were young parents. The guy planned to go hunting with an old pal of his father’s. The old pal is emotionally significant to the guy because he reminds him of his dead father. The guy has to choose between hunting and staying home. That’s it. No chase. No gruesome murder. Just something so every day, but at the same time something so relatable.

I’ve certainly been there. Have you?

-SM

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2 Responses to “Two Camps on Structure”

  1. I was really pleased to read this Stanton. I have struggled following the ‘formulaic’ structure. I have just finished first drafts on stories following this structure almost to the letter and to be fair, I like them, but the stories I have in my head at the moment do not seem to fit that mould.
    I am going to go with it and see what happens.
    I’m glad I read this when I did. Thanks!

  2. I’m glad it helped Steve. People say it is harder to have things published with less structure. That might be true, but my retort to that is, should writing only be about getting published? Of course you need people to read your work, but how much sacrificing is necessary?

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