Tuesday, April 24, 2012

"Elements of Fiction Writing: Scene and Structure" (Chapters 7-14) by Jack M. Bickham

As I finished "Scene and Structure," (from Chapters 7 to 14) I concede that it had some nice tidbits in places.  Still nothing stood out so me as all encompassing "Yoda" wisdom of prose, but instead it had chapters with 'nice to know' info that may or may not apply to your own style of writing.

What I got out of this text was that there is a method and madness to a general style of writing. But what I know from experience is that Bickham's guidance is not the "end all--be all" to the process of novel writing. Basically Bickham used what his mentor (Dwight V. Swain) taught him, and put his own twist in the text. Linking scenes, tricks to control pace, variations of scene writing and how to fix problems in scenes are his focus in later chapters of the book. These are techniques that I think are intuitive for one style of writing but do not mesh with other styles or author preferences. 

Bickham's method works better with a linear style novel where the protagonist (ONE protagonist) starts out on a path, climbs a mountain and ends up the hero at the finish line. It's very simplistic and perhaps that's what bothers me. The dull formula can be used to tell any story and it's pattern is utterly and completely predictable.

I also felt that chapters 13 (the structure of chapters) and those following should have actually been at the beginning of the book (The Scenic Master Plot..."). If these chapters had come earlier, the book would have made more sense if I were using it to really write my novel.

Overall, "Scene and Structure" was an OK 'how to' book but I finished it feeling like I'd just attended a Republican convention. It's outline was one-sided. It's waters were stagnant, and I would have liked to see Bickham show riskier elements to the scene and structure of a novel. Instead, his narrative remains a well-worn roadmap with a brand new cover, and I (personally) want something that travels beyond the Yellow Brick Road. I'm searching for a path that goes over the field of poppies and takes flight far past the view of the ordinary rainbow. Still, for those who like concrete, this book is for you.

Just don't step on the cracks.


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