Today I have decided to write about writing diagrams. Now, usually, I write these posts at least a few days in advance but, as this week has been a bit hectic, please forgive my spur-of-the-moment idiosyncrasies. There will be, however, pictures interesting to look at (if you like looking at picture examples is, in fact, interesting, of course) so I hope they make up for my (probably) crazy ramblings.
At a very young age I discovered the plot diagrams. I was searching the web for some interesting games to play and found this website – http://www.fictionpress.net. It was a marvelous discovery which allowed me to write and “publish” anything I wanted, create stories and spread my wings as a young writer. The users of the said website spoke very highly of a shape called the Plot Diagram (which I aptly named “The Hat Diagram” after I saw its basic shape) so I looked it up. Lo and behold this popped up:
It was pretty exciting for me because I’d never seen anything like it. So I used it, obsessively. Every story had to have an exposition, rising action, climax, falling action and resolution in exactly that order, regardless of what type of story it was. And, quite frankly, my writing became a tad bit boring because
of it. I had neglected to factor in the unique qualities of individual stories. Not every story has an exposition, sometimes the reader must be thrown into the action and the exposition comes later on, sometimes the reader sees the resolution first and then gets to piece together how it happened, and sometimes there is no climax at all, leaving the reader excited but forced to come up with their own twist. All in all, every story is different, heck, each genre is different. So the Hat Diagram, while useful, doesn’t help in every situation.
Back in my college years (only last year, mind you), I encountered another diagram. This one, or so the professor assured me, would be an important facet in writing short stories. I drew the diagram out and attempted to put it to good use. It was named the Inverted Check-Mark:
This diagram, said the professor, would help those rambling writers rein in their resolution which would, in turn, tighten up their short story. Yet, note how skewed this diagram is – the rising action takes up almost entirely the whole plot, hit the turning point, and poof as a writer and reader you’re pretty much done. It seemed odd to me at the time, but I gave my professor the benefit of the doubt and tried it. And again it helped for a while. But only a while. I, again, got stuck, a helpless turtle on its back unable to do anything except the same rocking motions back and forth, back and forth. I soon realized that short stories, like longer works, can start wherever the writer deems necessary, at the turning point, resolution, or even mid-rising action.
There are a dozen different devices aimed at helping writers develop their plots and, for the most part, I applaud them. They do help. If you ever get stuck, try one out and see what happens.
However, a caution to this tale of mine: In order to be unique one must break away from the usual and try something, well, unusual. Remember that. Don’t depend on diagrams. Don’t depend on anything except your ability to write and your creative muse.
(Except, of course, when your muse disappears, then write questionable stuff for a while until it returns… but that’ll be a different post.)
To sum it up: Diagrams are good. Don’t use them every time or you’ll end up like a turtle. Create something new.
I hope this helps someone out out there…