Writing Tip #25: The Big Picture
~ This writing tip refers to the book Crazy for the Storm by Norman Ollestad. This book is a “must read,” in my opinion and to read a previous Book Talk on this book, Click Here.
It’s hard to know what you are writing about, in a novel or in a memoir. For most of us, there is simply an elusive “something” that drives us to write and so we do it. As Rilke writes, in his Letters to a Young Poet, “Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depth of your heart; confess to yourself you would have to die if you were forbidden to write.”
If you must write, you must. Okay. Now get busy.
But the next question is, “what should I write?” followed by “how shall I write it?”
Rilke offers a big of advice on these questions as well: “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions.”
What he’s saying here is “write your questions, explore your questions and see where it all takes you.”
But amidst our questions, we are still mightily challenged. We hunger for answers on how to shape our book, our essay and/or our short story. This is our desire to know the outcome, of course. It’s also the desire for some control in a process–the writing process–which if we tell the truth, is almost entirely out of our control.
One of my favorite ways to get a semblance of control, or at least, more information about the craft of writing, is to read the work of other writers and do it with a set of sticky notes and a pen.
My recent favorite book to study in this way is Crazy for the Storm by Norman Ollestad. I have dissected this book into its front story/back story framework. Let’s take a second to define these terms. Front story is an answer to the question of “what is going on in this story that is the forward moving continuous arc. (My initial tense suggestion is first person, present intermixed with third.) Back story is the background information that gives the reader enough context for the forward moving arc. (My initial tense suggestion is first person/past, third person past and even the second person at times.)
In his book, sometime with one paragraph chapters even, Ollestad goes back and forth with front story which details the plane crash with himself, his dad and his dad’s girlfriend, Sandra. In his back story, he details a trip he and his father take to Mexico as a way to give all the primary characters in the story–as they were in the life of the young Norman–just prior to the accident. Near the end of the book, at the point that young Normal is able to get off the mountain after the crash, the front story meets the back story and the remainder of the book is then told in front story and continues in that manner all the way to the end.
This is a terrific method to tell a story and if you want to take this class, you can click here
. If you want to see for yourself, go out and get a copy of this terrific book and study it on your own.
YOUR TURN: What books have you read and what is the structure. What inspires you about the structure and what bugs you.