I'm an Ogre - Three parts
By Geoffrey C PorterWebsite http://www.geoffporter.com/
In many ways, I am an Ogre. I wasn't always this way, but years of dealing with a slush pile has altered me. My focus with this post is the idea of three parts.
For me to be happy, a story needs to contain three parts. A beginning, middle, and end if you will. This may seem like a really basic concept covered in almost every writing class, but at the same time, if you study literature, you will be taught that a story can have any number of parts.
Each part can be broken down into two sections as well. Scene/Event and Sequel/Character reaction. You want something significant to happen, followed by a character's reaction to the happening. Rinse and repeat.
This may seem really formulaic, and I don't think I can truly and fully provide proof that all good literature follows this format. If you are lacking in character reactions, the piece will feel hurried and disjointed. Obviously, if you leave out the events, you've got nothing. The character reactions are so important to the flow of a story.
Let's look at an example. In The Aardvark Curse, by Garry McNulty, published in Untied Shoelaces of the Mind, Issue #5, we have a very short story, under 500 words, but there are clearly three parts.
|I had no idea what I was getting into. She was beautiful and intriguing, and, after three dates, we had slept together and I told her how special she was.|
The "I told her how special she was" is the sequel. It's the main character's reaction to the event (the beginning).
|That's when she sprang it on me. "You should know I'm a witch," she said.
"A good witch or an evil witch?" I asked, hoping like hell she wasn't really any kind of witch. Who needs shit like that in their life? Not me.
She gave me this cold stare that sent a shiver right through me. "For people who piss me off, I'm an evil witch."
Right then, I wanted to sprint through the door and never look back, but I was afraid. Especially after she told me she turned her last lover into an aardvark. An aardvark! I looked it up. It's some kind of freaking anteater.
The "I was afraid" is the sequel. He does a nice job showing us the fear with the internal monologue.
|So now I'm scared to death I'm going to disappoint her. You know, say the
wrong thing, do the wrong thing, or, God forbid, disappoint her in the bedroom.
It's a lot of pressure.
After some time passed and I hadn't seen her perform any magic, I began hoping she made the whole thing up. Then some poor policeman pulled us over for speeding.
Somewhere on Route 102, thanks to my girlfriend, there's an aardvark running around with a badge and a gun. Please help me!
Please help me, is the final character reaction. Structurally, this story is pretty much perfect. It has a clear beginning, middle, and end. There are some smooth transitions between the events as well, stuff that sets things up, if you will. These can be very important, but I don't want to discuss them right now.
While we have published a *few* stories that only have two parts or in some cases are a long setup to a twist, this is generally not what we're looking for. I want to see three reasonably important events, followed by character reactions. More events is not a turn off, but if there is only one or two events to a story, I don't have a problem rejecting a story on those grounds.
The metric I typically apply is summation. I try and summarize the story into the smallest atomic units. If I can summarize a story's main events into one or two simple sentences, I generally reject it. And this is why I'm an ogre, I include the summary in the rejection if the person wants comments. Approximately 90% of all story submissions request comments on Untied, and I typically provide comments.
Much of this blog entry can be attributed to what I learned in school, in countless classes with Tim Waggoner.
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Copyright 2009-2015, Geoffrey C. Porter
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