Saturday, October 31, 2009

STRUCTURE: In Like a Lion: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.

Hi Meg,

 This chapter makes me want to talk a little bit about the structure of a chapter. As writers we are all aware of the structure, or arc of a story. There is rising tension, a climax, and at the end, a resolution. As this chapter demonstrates, a chapter should have an arc that mirrors the arc of the story. We open with Junior's admission, "I never guessed I'd be a good basketball player." It turns out that he is not just a good basketball player. As the chapter unfolds he comes to realize that his confidence has turned him into a basketball force to be reckoned with. "I was the hired gunfighter."

Tension mounts when Junior's team, with their record of 12 wins and one loss, to Wellpinit, are faced with a rematch against Rowdy's team, which is undefeated. Junior wants nothing more than to win this game. Alexie keeps the tension rising as Junior is interviewed before the game and he says, "I feel this is the most important night of my life . . . I have something to prove to the people in Reardan, the people in Wellpinit, and to myself."

Tension continues to rise as the game begins, and the reader is wondering, will he do it? Will he win?

We reach a climax in emotion and action as the gym explodes with emotion and noise, and Junior has led his team to a victory. Then, the emotional arc goes up a notch, when Junior is confronted with the devastation of his opponents, and the reality of just how painful this is for the Wellpinit team. "I was suddenly ashamed that I'd wanted so badly to take revenge on them." Junior weeps like a baby--tears of shame that he has broken his best friend's heart.

Upon reaching the climax, the story drops in action and emotion, as Junior describes the aftermath of that victory. He had a goal, he acheived it, and the price was high. A complete story in one chapter, with an arc all its own.

Story Sleuths Tip # 17: Make sure that, like the entire story, each chapter has an arc.