Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Revision and Unity: Crafting Your Long Story

The idea of "unity" is rather nebulous in fiction.  It can refer to unity of time and place (as in all the events occur in the same scene), or to unity of theme (the story has a tightly-focused symbolism), or to unity of character (the protagonist is developed and consistent).  By examining the focus of your story, you can develop and sharpen the implied meaning of the work as a whole.

Group assignments for long-story workshops.

Use Dialogue to Reveal Variation
Strangely, one of the critical components of unity involves variation - digressions or differences from the theme of the story in order to juxtapose different information against the main theme.  Dialogue, allows us to bring in opposing voices and ideas without breaking the narrative tone of the work.

Use Effective Dialogue Tags to convey a sense of urgency to each speaker's voice.
Make sure your Dialogue Grammar and Syntax is correct.

Meaning and Statement
"What does this mean?" is a common question.  In fiction, I urge you not to be too wrapped-up in meaning - in general, the meaning of a story will come out naturally.  Similarly, you don't want your story to become too involved in "making a statement."  Readers don't like to feel as if they're reading a sermon.

This comes down to the difference between story and plot.  Often, to highlight a theme, you'll need to present it outside the chronological order of events (i.e. shift the plot).


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