Saturday, March 10, 2007

Analyzing books

I tend to be a fast reader, almost a skimmer at times, inhaling books in great gulps to find out what happens next. If I really love a book, I often revisit it, usually in a selective re-reading to savor favorite moments.

Since I'm considering switching genres with my next project but feel like I have a lot to learn about how to structure a non-romance plot, I'm taking a route recommended by several authors and analyzing some favorite books in my target genres to see how they're put together. I started today with the first two scenes of His Majesty's Dragon.

It's weird to read so slowly, highlighters and colored pencils in hand, notebook at my side. Instead of thinking, "What happens next? What happens next?" I'm obliged to ask, "What is this scene's purpose in the story? And how is it constructed? What's the conflict? Is there any backstory, and to what purpose? What do we learn about the characters?" Etc. But I think it's going to be a useful exercise for me. So far all my manuscripts have had structural flaws, some minor, some major. I don't see myself ever becoming the type who builds stories before I write them, with extensive outlining, character bios, and the like. But maybe if I can teach myself more about how good stories are structured, I won't blunder through my own plots so blindly.

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