Monthly Archives: August 2013

Turning My Book on End

I’ve heard some good exercises to improve plot or structure, but I read a book recently that gave me a new notion—a notion that threatens to turn my book upside down.

David Ball, in his “Technical Manual for Reading Plays,” called Backwards & Forwards argues that the way to read a play for meaning on stage is backwards, not just forwards.

He says that the play is “a series of dominoes: one event triggers the next, and so on.” He invites the reader to think of arranging dominoes on end, close enough together, so that if one is knocked over it knocks over the next and then the next.

If you read a good play forwards, you won’t notice this causality. That’s because if Event A triggers Event B, you know moving forward, that Event A could have triggered a whole array of other things.  But it didn’t—it triggered Event B.

If you start reading from the end—the last event (let’s call it Event Z), then the event which caused it (Event Y), then the event which caused it (Event X), you can see that you couldn’t have Event Z without Event Y occurring, and you couldn’t have Event X without Event Y.  So while reading forwards gives you a variety of options and thus adds mystery to the story, reading backwards is a series of “of courses” as you trace the play backwards.

While Ball makes a distinction between reading a play for performing on stage and reading a play as literature, I would suggest that his method for reading works for writing a story.  One caveat is that more unique and unusual variations on chronology make it more difficult to understand Ball’s point, but I think his argument is valid at heart of any story.

So why does it turn my book upside down? To analyze my structure backwards, I have to start with the end. But I don’t have an ending yet!  Since it’s not a novel, I can’t manufacture an ending. I haven’t decided if I’ve lived the last event or if it is still in my future. Until I do live it or decide I have already lived it and know what it is, I can’t work backwards on structure!

However, I can take the last event I’ve written and read backward from there, searching for cause and effect and revising where needed.

Have you ever read or analyzed your own or someone else’s story backwards?

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Just a reminder that I have a story in the Midlife Collage contest this week.  To find my story go to Midlife Collage  OR Facebook page.  Remember: it’s “Still Photo” by Luanne Castle.  Please comment after my story and “like” it with the Facebook link if you have a Facebook account.  You can tell them which story you want to win in “closing arguments.”

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Filed under Creative Nonfiction, Essay, Memoir, Memoir writing theory, Nonfiction, Research and prep for writing, Writing

Day 2 of My Story Sitting Up There

Yes, today is Day 2 of my story sitting up there on the Midlife Collage contest! 

As I mentioned yesterday, one of my stories is in the Midlife Collage contest this week. It’s called “Still Photo” and is up against four other very short stories.

  1. Please leave a Facebook “like” for my story!  click the Facebook link at the bottom of the story.
  2. If you have time please leave one of your thoughtful comments at the end of the story.
  3. If you can please go to “closing arguments” and tell them which story should win this week.

Go here to find my story:

Midlife Collage.  “Still Photo” by Luanne Castle.

What follows is a repeat of information in yesterday’s post:

If my story were to win, I would like to use my award to design a contest for Writer Site–something you all can participate in. What do you think about that idea? I got the idea from the Paying It Forward segment on our local TV station.

 

Why is the story called "Still Photo" if the photo is of a camcorder?

Why is the story called “Still Photo” if the photo is of a camcorder?

 

AND THANK YOU FOR YOUR HELP, LOVELIES!

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Filed under Blogging, Creative Nonfiction, Essay, Memoir, Nonfiction, Photographs, Writing

Shameless Begging for Help (Again)

I hate to beg for help. I asked for help last Thursday with my poetry reading skills. Now here I am asking for help again. I am definitely hanging my head and kicking the dirt with my shoe as I write this.

This time there is a time constraint. And rules.

One of my stories is in the Midlife Collage contest this week. See it up on the Home page:  “Still Photo” by Luanne Castle. It competes with four other very short stories.

The idea is that readers (that’s you, a reader 😉 ) read the stories which are up this week. Then you leave comments on at least three of them. (Note: the comments only count if you comment on at least three stories). Not “atta girl” type comments, but the sort of comment you might leave on one of my blog posts. If you think my story deserves to win, by all means, say so in your comment and give a reason why.

If you don’t have time to leave the comments, please leave a Facebook “like” for my story!  Here is the Facebook page.

The way they select the winner is through both the comments and the Facebook likes, with the comments being weighted more heavily.

I would be so grateful if you would read my story and the others and give the feedback that you are able to give.

Go here to find my story:

Midlife Collage  OR Facebook page.  Remember: it’s “Still Photo” by Luanne Castle.

Here’s my plan.

If my story were to win, I would like to use my award to design a contest for Writer Site–something you all can participate in. What do you think about that idea? I got the idea from the Paying It Forward segment on our local TV station.

Extra info:

Midlife Collage has a feature of interest to commenters called “Comments That Stick.” MC says, “We look for readers who write inspiring, enlightening or entertaining comments.” These will be comments that live on long after the contest for that particular story has closed.

Why is the story called "Still Photo" if the photo is of a camcorder?

Why is the story called “Still Photo” if the photo is of a camcorder?

Maybe you too will want to submit a piece to Midlife Collage!

AND THANK YOU FOR YOUR HELP, LOVELIES!

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Filed under Blogging, Creative Nonfiction, Essay, Memoir, Nonfiction, Photographs, Writing

Help Wanted: Reading Ideas

I’ve started pulling together poems to create a poetry manuscript. If I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it with bravado, if not confidence, so I won’t talk about how I feel about this event.

But I will venture into my worries about reading my poetry aloud. If I have to read someone else’s words aloud, I am an excellent reader. I rarely make a mistake, and my voice delivers the goods with correct expression and a pleasing sound.

Unfortunately, I just can’t get it right when I read my work. Part of the problem is I hate the “typical” cadence many poets adopt when reading their work aloud. It’s very fashionable, but I think it’s boring. Sometimes I approximate that style without succumbing entirely. Sometimes I try to read as I feel the material. What I can’t get down at all is reading like an actor, which is what I would like to do.

Here is one poem in a reading I did in Los Angeles in 2010. This was my heartfelt style, and I got a lot of compliments for the reading that night, though I can see much room for improvement.

And here are a couple of audio versions I recorded this year for the literary magazine A Clean Well-Lighted Place: “Calculating Loss” and “From Both Sides.” Here I tried to compromise, but I’m very unsatisfied.

https://soundcloud.com/lightedplace/sets/volume-iv

The other poets in this magazine do a much better job reading their poems.

Practice doesn’t seem to work for me because I feel as if I am floundering about how to read aloud.

So should I go back to my heartfelt style? Or is there a 3rd and better way of reading? Any ideas on what I can do to improve my reading?  I’m hoping you have some fabulous ways to decide how to read and then how to go about doing so.

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Filed under Essay, Nonfiction, Poetry, Research and prep for writing