Sunday, March 17, 2013

The underlying pattern

I'm pretty averse to Rules for Writing (OK, I know there are basic rules, but I hate the way they get fetishised and lead to the samey-ness that often dominates lit mags and short story prize lists and the kind of literary tyranny that results), but I like, as I think most writers will, this article on story archetypes by John Yorke, from his book on the subject which comes out next month. It's descriptive rather than rule-making, with a nice eye on both the excitement of subverting the archetype he describes and the endless mutability of the underlying pattern:
It seems impossible to understand how, with only eight notes in an octave, we don't simply run out of music. But just as tones give rise to semi-tones and time signatures, tempo and style alter content, so we start to see that a simple pattern contains within it the possibility of endless permutations. Feed in a different kind of flaw; reward or punish the characters in a variety of ways; and you create a different kind of story.


dan powell said...

And I suppose the biggest variable of all is the accumulated life experience/perception of the world that shapes each individual writer and inevitably feeds into the work.

Thanks for sharing the article, added to my Kindle to read later.

Elizabeth Baines said...


nmj said...

Exactly, Dan.

What peeves me about these ubiquitous 'top ten tips' from (famous) writers is the assumption that everyone has physical wellbeing and can get up in the morning and write for three hours and then go for a a brisk/bracing walk. Not so!