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Why structure is important even if you don’t like it. Advice from best-selling author Jennifer Greene

On writing….and concepts about structure and formula. I give talks on this because I’m well aware writers (and all creative people) seem to hate the structure/formula words automatically. I used to. But if you like jazz or any kind of music…you know that you can’t play ‘beautifully’ or come up with original music, until you’ve mastered all the steps in between.

Writing isn’t quite like that. But I see this structure this way: you can’t decorate a house with no walls. The structure you choose isn’t limiting, but *frees* you to pick and place whatever you want inside. Without that structure, you might as well put a blue couch in the desert. Sure, you can do it. But there’s no point. And if you partly write to reach a reader–not just to please yourself–that structure is part of that communication process.

In literary fiction, the writer’s job is to write down whatever he sees. The writer makes no value judgment over whether an action is good or back. It’s all up to the reader to decide what the events and characters mean.

 

Jennifer goes on to write that literary fiction may be more limiting to the author than any other genre.  That the structure, like a net in tennis, makes it freer than a wilder, unstructured game of tennis, or work of art like a symphony can be.  In this sense, I often find it easier to write sonnets, with its very tight structure, than blank verse.  So it is good advice, doubly so, because I have no problem with structure.


 

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