Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Copycating

I'm teaching myself how to write again. I'm starting with an old trick. Way back in my early twenties, when I read avidly and with naivete, I would hand copy paragraphs from stories by writers such as Bellow and Hemingway. It taught me a lot about syntax and voice. Now, I'm going a step further, but instead of copying paragraphs, I'm copying story structure. For instance, today I read a story I like (it's not great, but it works, for my purposes,) and now I'm going to write my own story that manipulates point of view, episodes, characters, turning points and themes in the same way it does. The words are different--different setting, different characters--but the blue print is the same. Having a blue print relieves me of the anxiety of not knowing where the hell I'm going. This is an exercise that I used to avoid doing. Now, I'm eager to start.

This approach to writing a story is not that far removed from finding playable action through script analysis, of course, or from writing a Hollywood screenplay. I think that doing script analysis, as an actor, is helping me to come back to writing narrative prose with a different, more 'process oriented' and patient attitude than I've had before.

It's fun.

5.5

1 comment:

suzy said...

Structural mimicry is a great way to learn(or re-learn) to build a story. Inside this framework, you can go as crazy as you want.

By the way, I read a really interesting essay on the physics of creativity recently. In it was posited the notion that hesitation is an essential part of the creative process, and that without it, divergent thinking (which is at the heart of any paragraph that leaps to the next paragraph) is impossible. The next step, this essayist argued, is to find a way to move through and beyond divergence to avoid paralysis. Imitation is one way to do this, I think, as long as you let divergence--perhaps in the form of exploring contradiction or tension--lead you deeper in.

-S