My Short Fiction Writing professor loved visual aids. She often had a fat black marker in hand during class and rarely missed the opportunity to slash an inverted check mark-like shape across a dry-erase board (or one of our papers) while reminding us, “YOUR GOAL IS TO DEVIATE FROM THE TRADITIONAL NOVEL STRUCTURE! THINK OF AN ICEBERG!” Apparently she had little faith in the fact that we got it that first day of class. This
ain’t isn’t rocket science, after all.
It wasn’t until much later that I appreciated the visual. I like the similarities between the three-act structure and the brutal, brilliant paring down of non-essentials that brought forth the modern short-story.
Teachers and famous published authors sound so smug when they declare “every story must have a beginning, a middle, and an end” — just smug! As I’m fully embracing that concept and trying to overlook the smugly declared obvious trajectory that a story should take, I meet the SF professor who informs me that modern short fiction writers successfully skip over the expository details generally presented in “the beginning”, and hit the ground running in “the middle”.
Expository details are left below the surface, out of sight. The modern short story demands readers participate in the action and make certain conclusions about the beginning on their own. The novel tells us everything — we have a chance to sit down and get to know the characters, sip some tea, bask in the rich color schemes of a protagonists’ interior decorating choices, while the modern short fiction keeps us breathlessly hurdling toward the end.
As horrible as I make this all sound, the truth is there are merits to every structure. And some fine examples of the Three-Act structure, not only in Shakespearean plays, but in modern movies and television as well. Thanks to RicoChey’s April Theme we have the opportunity to hone our writing skills this month by exploring the limits and elasticity of short fiction within three acts and an epilogue.
Personally, I’m looking forward to applying a sharp-edged version of this concept to poetry.
How will you interpret this week’s prompt, Act I? Has this effectively pushed you out of your comfort zone? Or, are you snuggling in nicely?
Week One Topic: Act I #gowrite.
Happy National Poetry Month! All community writers & readers are welcome to post A Poem A Day.