In my writing career, I have had the triumph of a short story which became a novel – a familiar enough transformation – but also the tragedy of a full length novel which only ever saw publication as a short story. There’s nothing tragic about short stories, of course, but generally a writer doesn’t like to spend twelve years on one. Continue reading
Why does structure matter? How does it shape the meanings of a story, and the reader’s response to it?
For one thing, structure gives signals to readers. I break my long short-story “The Zealot” into twenty tiny chapters. It’s quite a filmic story and the “chapterettes” function as scenes. It seemed like a necessary thing to do for a piece like this which is written in the present tense. It’s an intense story through the eyes of an unstable teenage-activist and perhaps it offers some relief for the reader, a containment. On the other hand, it’s also a trace of that story’s origins as an entire novel, and a signal that perhaps it’s not exactly a short story. It’s rare to have a short story which is broken into numbered sections, but it’s quite common for them to be structured with many scene-breaks, marked off with asterisks. I’ve got a misbegotten tendency to think of short stories which are “one take” – no breaks of any kind – as being a purer example of the genre.
I retitled my novel yesterday.
Over time it’s been Phoebe Jane Anarchy, Revolution’s Pride, Give up your dreams of revolution we’re calling your parents, Dreams of Revolution and Zeal. On my old blog, I had a poll and the long title was by the far the most popular. But now I have a new title.
I was walking along Stirling Highway to pick up a takeaway from Bibik Chan when the new one came to me:
The House of Zealots.
Because it’s about a share house of students who have in common, more than anything, zeal – for one of them religious zeal, for the other three political, although these things get mixed up.
(Having written this account of the new title, I already doubt it. I’d already retitled it when I was walking along Stirling Highway. It’s just that I had a sudden vision of the book in my hands, with a black shiny cover and that title on the front. Now I can’t remember how the title really came to me.)