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.
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