Having written 16 stories (good lord…) since I started in summer 2020, I dare say I’ve gotten the hang of the process. As I detailed in my last post, I’ve got an idea I really like for my next story, but somehow I don’t feel like doing it the same way I’ve done my first 16 books; I want to stretch myself more as an author.
Iambic pentameter, ring composition, illustration, and a different venue is what I’d like to change up. Let’s start with iambic pentameter. For a while I’ve been thinking of what it might be like to introduce some more structure into my writing; it’s all rather slap-dash and not very poetic, and using an actual meter or rhythm might elevate it to a whole new level of artistry. In iambic pentameter, the first syllable is unstressed, the second is stressed, and each line consists of five such couplets (hence “penta-“), ten syllables total.
It’s very common in the English language, perhaps most famously employed by William Shakespeare. A big reason for this is the iambic-pentameter rhythm sounds natural in English, being not too different from how the language is normally spoken. For example, William Shatner (probably by dint of being a Shakespearian actor (yes, really)) usually spoke Captain Kirk’s dialogue in iambic pentameter, and it comes off anywhere from perfectly normal to a little odd; if he spoke in many of the other common meters it would have all come off as really strange.
So I think I’ll try out that form of writing for my latest story.
Another kind of structure I’m interested in is “ring composition”, a little-known and rather ancient form of narrative that’s circular rather than linear:
The story is organized into a sequence of elements that progress from a beginning to a well-marked midpoint. Then, the ring turns and the first sequence of elements is repeated in reverse order until the story returns to the starting point.
George Lucas used this technique in his six-part Star Wars saga; Episode I corresponds to Episode VI, II with V, and III with IV. As a poem rhymes words, a ring story parallels and contrasts ideas.
In my story I’m brainstorming now there’s a framing device of the protagonist delivering a speech to her assassin academy inaugurating them into the ranks of students and also inaugurating her daughter as head of the school, then she leaves and is inaugurated as President, with the girl herself being the granddaughter of a previous President. So there’s a certain symmetry there to work with.
Bracketed by these first and last part is her speech containing the story of how she got there in the first place, which itself is divided into symmetrical halves: a vision, consisting of the Vampires of the Oort Cloud concept, followed by her recapitulating the same themes, ideas, and even plot in her challenge to prospective husbands that goes horribly wrong when she’s kidnapped by space pirates for real. There’s even a recapitulation of the same people, since the man who’s her husband in the vision is identical to the man who later appears for real and becomes her real husband. Possibly other characters will reappear as well. So that provides another bit of mirror-image symmetry.
On top of that, the end of the vision, and the halfway mark of the overall story, is where the moral is laid bare, and where she receives her calling, having probably the most striking visual imagery in the whole story. In ring composition, the climax or central crisis of the story is in the middle, rather than near the end like in a conventional narrative. The structure of my next story would seem to lend itself to it.
More precisely, there’s the first part of the frame, then there’s the vision (at the end of which we reach the midpoint and climax), then there’s the challenge, then there’s the last part of the frame. Four parts. The first part is recapitulated in the fourth part, while the second part is recapitulated in the third part. A classic ring.
It’s going to be one weird book, though I hope a very enjoyable read, so I think I’ll go all-out on it being more unusual than my other works. To that end I’m thinking about posting it to my blog right here rather than reserving it for ebook and paperback readers on Amazon. I’ve already done this with a few of my short stories, but this book will likely be the longest piece I’ve yet posted right on my website to read free of charge. Some of the content is a bit spicy for Amazon, and hey, I’m in a radical mood lately anyway.
That’s also got me thinking that it might be much easier for me to integrate illustrations and images on WordPress than Kindle, so I might plan to make it more visual than my other works, with digital paintings and graphics galore to complement the words, which is something I’ve been interested in doing for a long time. This presents an ideal opportunity to make that happen.
Because all this stretches my abilities somewhat, it might take a lot longer to make this all come together than some of my other works, where I just plug away at it and write for a couple weeks, but I think it might be a rewarding journey, and I’m looking forward to it!