Sunday, October 7, 2012

More About Structure

A few weeks back I mentioned the classic short story structure of set up, exposition, epiphany, and denouement in my blog on Fundamentals.  This was a simple, straightforward form that let's you build a technically straightforward, but simple story.

While all stories  have the four elements mention earlier they do not necessarily need to be in the same sequence.  One could start with parts of the exposition and then move into the set up of the problem.  Starting with an action scene to grab the reader's attention is the most familiar form of this approach and, if you are like me, you always fall for it.  That dramatic, ass-clenching, gut-wrenching, curiosity-rousing beginning shouldn't delay getting to the set up for long because it will overpower the set up and you don't want to do that because it is the set-up that frames the arc of the story and gives the reader a foundation for understanding.

That said, exposition can take a variety of forms chronologically, physically, or even stylistically, such as framing differing narratives in distinct "voices."  You can play with flashback and flash forward, jump between settings or doing both at the same time. In fact, there is nothing that you can't do in this element so long as you don't lose the reader and keep moving toward that dynamite epiphany.

The final rule and that is that you can do whatever you want between the goalposts of set up and epiphany but after you pass that you need to get off the stage as quickly and graciously as possible.

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