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Act it Out (Creative Writing Exercise)

The lovely Kelley, writing at a coffee shop

Creative Writing Exercise

All this talk of document structure has me thinking back on some of my older projects. As I said in yesterday’s article, the series I’m working on now is highly structured — every book packed with three acts, five chapters per act, two scenes per chapter.

My older work isn’t really like that, though. My first effort at including any sort of structure in a story was King Jason’s War, and that was my fourth novel. I wonder what I’d find if I looked really closely at Taming Fire, or even The Poet Alexander….

I’d find something, that’s for sure. As I said yesterday, every story has a structure, whether it’s intentional or accidental. I’m guessing I’d find something clumsy in my first novel, and probably something a little more sound in my second (since it’s built pretty heavily on genre standards).

What would you find, if you looked at your work? That’s your exercise this week. Pick one of your works-in-progress, and chart it out. Or, if you don’t have anything of your own that would work, pick one of your favorite stories, like Larry loves to do. Either way is great exercise, because it will help you recognize the hidden structure, help you pick out the act breaks, the transitions, the different nature of the storytelling at different places.

Do a thorough analysis, and talk it through. I’d like at least 100-300 words of description, explaining what type of structure you see (3-act, 5-act, vignettes, multi-volume, etc.), how effective the structure is (Does your introduction bleed into Act II? Does your quest start before the reader is sufficiently informed?), and what you could do to improve it.

If you like what you come up with, post it on your blog! Share it, just like Courtney does with her Work-in-Progress Updates. It will help your readers understand some of what you have to deal with as a writer. Be sure to share a link with us here, too, so we can all benefit from seeing someone else’s structure analysis.

Photo credit Julie V. Photography.

4 Responses to “Act it Out (Creative Writing Exercise)”

  1. Courtney Cantrell says:

    Taming Fire has structure. Not as clear a structure as Katie’s stories…but structure is there, nonetheless. :o)

  2. Aaron Pogue says:

    Thank you for saying so, Courtney. I’m a little amazed at all the kind things you’ve said about it so far.

    I read through the first half a couple summers back, but most of it just struck me as a lot of work. I’ve been carrying that story around inside my head for so long I forget some of the coolness and excitement it’s supposed to hold.

    • I’m replying directly from the WP Dashboard, so this is an experiment!

      The story holds a lot of coolness and excitement, and I think it deserves your attention. 🙂 I know I just keep teasing you with these tiny bits of approval–especially now that I’m done reading!–but I promise a full review to come soon. I’m not mean enough to keep dragging this out. At least, I don’t think I am. *hee hee*

      • Aaron Pogue says:

        You could always make it a WILAWriTWe for me! You’ve already got one with my name on the end, but it could be “WILAWriTWe from Daven Carrickson” or “WILAWriTWe from Master Claighan.”

        Actually, no. You can’t. I mean you can, and should, do a WILAWriTWe about my cheesy fantasy novel. I’m not ready to say I’d settle for that short of a review, though (or that long of a WILAWriTWe — I do have editorial standards, after all).