I’m a total junkie for writing craft books. Lately, I’ve been fascinated with story shapes. Kurt Vonnegut wrote and lectured on some basic story shapes (his vids are on YouTube and always worth a watch), but Jane Alison’s recent release looks to patterns in nature in order to explore the idea of stories taking on shapes other than the tried-and-true arc.
I’m fascinated by the idea–and absolutely agree that a story can be riveting and satisfying for the reader without being expected. In fact, it might be more satisfying if it does not employ the traditional arc structure.
Lately, I also feel that when my own manuscripts get stuck–when they just don’t seem to want to come together–it’s because the story doesn’t want to follow the rules. It doesn’t want to come together in that arc, or the POV doesn’t want to simply be limited 3rd-person.
The trick, of course, is to do something unexpected in a way that feels fresh and not confusing for the reader. The book also shouldn’t feel gimmicky, either–the narrative patterns that Alison explores aren’t to be used “just because.” They should have a purpose. Your story should be one that couldn’t be told without deviating from the old arc.
Alison’s work is definitely worth a read. Highly recommended for any author on the hunt for a fresh approach to their latest WIP.