Using Structure to Move the Story

It has been a long time since I thought about an actual “writing lesson” blog post, but I just returned from a wonderful month long writing adventure and came to a realization I want to share. I have long known that the sentence length and even word length can increase or decrease the intensity and emotion of a scene. Longer, more descriptive sentences slow things down, while crisp, short sentences build things up. And just like viewing a quilt or a painting, the reader (or viewer) needs breaks once in a while. It was explained to me like this: “The eye needs somewhere to rest,” and that has always provided me with great advice.

The current novel I’m writing (working title “The Blue Clay Pot”) is done in my favorite style of alternating chapters. This one is between past and present, although different from Hidden Within the Stones in that the same character is in both sections (yes, it involves time travel!)

So, there I was, camped in Bandelier National Park for two weeks, totally getting into my main character’s head, hiking where she hiked, living and dreaming and writing how things were for her. I suddenly knew that as she spent time in the past she was beginning to forget about the present. Her “old life” faded as her new life took over. Added to this was a comment from my alpha reader indicating as the story moved along she wanted more of the character’s life in the past and suddenly I knew how to make this work.

The chapters in the past get longer as she moves deeper into this world. Longer descriptions, more things happening, longer words, longer in every way. Conversely the chapters in the present grow shorter as she quits thinking about her life. Just brief scenes, tiny pictures into what is going on in the present.

I am loving how this is working. I really do think that the actual structure will provide this story with the emotional pull in the direction I want it to go. I’m looking forward to the time when I can get feedback from my beta readers on how this style works. Of course, having worked on this story for years (not solidly, I put it away for awhile) I’m looking forward to beta readers for a bunch of reasons!