Red, Part III – Structure

I realize that it has been far too long since I have posted an update on the status of work on project Red, but in some ways that’s good news.  The time that I could have been using to blog about writing the story, I’ve actually been using to write the damn thing.  As of this writing, I’ve passed the 8000-word mark of the first draft, and still have a long way to go.

I want to take some time to talk about structure in this post, in part because I think its’ quite important to Red.  Structure is one of the elements which I often think about a lot before I start writing a story.  For Red in particular, when ideas for the story began to gel in my head, using a three-act structure leaped to the forefront of my mind as the right decision for the piece.  Since Red is working out to be a novella, I wanted some way to divide it into more manageable chunks besides just having scene-breaks.  The plot, which I don’t want to give away too much of yet, lends itself nicely to being explicitly split up into three acts, I – The Lock, II – The Key, and III – Hodmimir, with each part encompassing one of the three acts, while still having its own small plot-arc.

Why do I think of structure during the planning-phase of my stories?  Largely, it helps me envision how the story as a whole will flow and lets me figure out the pacing of the piece.  Knowing the structure of a story also helps in post-production for figuring out which parts of a story need to be cut, changed, or rearranged.

Returning to Red, I want to say a few more words about using a three-act structure in a large piece like this one.  In a large piece, it can be hard to keep readers focused just on the overarching plot of the piece, especially when a single act enters the territory of novelette in terms of sheer length.  For act one of Red, the rising action, the full plot has not yet been revealed to readers or players, though it is hinted at.  This has the potential to drag if that’s all that’s happening, so it’s important to give the act its own subplots, which can then carry through the work as added enticement for readers to continue to the end.  In the case of act one of Red, this subplot comes in the form of a romantic interest for the main character, Erik.

This romantic interest isn’t just there for filler, though she wasn’t anywhere in the outline and just popped onto the page as I worked through the first act.  In fact, though I hadn’t consciously considered her before she made the page, she looks to help support some of the rising action leading towards the end of the first act and eventually the climax (hur hur hur hur hur, laugh it up, this is an urban fantasy after all).

Now I know that I’ve been throwing around the phrase “three-act structure” a lot without fully explaining it.  Rather than try, after midnight on a Saturday/Sunday, to explain, drawing this post out past its original purpose, I will simply point you to this episode of Writing Excuses for a good working definition of what I’ve been talking about.


About Hilary B. Bisenieks

Hilary B. Bisenieks (Biss-en-yex) n. 1. An author of fact, fancy, and opinion based out of Oakland, CA. 2. A graduate of the Creative Writing program at Warren Wilson college and Mary Robinette Kowal's Short Story Workshop. 3. A man unable to be trusted to update basic biographical information with any regularity. View all posts by Hilary B. Bisenieks

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