Ben Peek (benpeek) wrote,
Ben Peek

On Structure

Moving forward on the book, picking up round the eighty thousand word mark now. At the moment, it doesn't have a title, not really.

Originally, I wanted to call it the Godless, but the book itself has moved from that title, and the original idea of a completely godless world. It was hard, I found, to write an extended narrative on the absence of gods, without discussing the gods themselves. The idea still remains, but it will have to exist elsewhere, in a different fashion. Right now I am using the Godless as a title to cover the idea of the book and world and if it'll have any legs for sequels, which is the idea. It's the first time at writing something that will stretch across multiple volumes, and I like the structural challenge of it. Indeed, I like the structural challenge of the book as a whole.

Finding a structure is an important aspect of a book, or even a short story, at least for me. I tend to think that my work likes a narrative structure to hold it together and the strongest pieces I have done are the ones where the structure is integral to it. For example, with Above/Below, the structure of two independent novellas folding against each other to make a single whole is part of the experience of reading the book, and the two narratives were built to go with that experience. Originally, in the early moments of planning, I wanted the centre of the book to be a bit, single climax that both pieces were working towards, an idea I had had years ago, but it was hard to make that work. 26Lies is all about the structure, really, the dictionary like definition of the words and how they link to my life, my language, and so forth. Even Black Sheep had an important structural concern, after the removal of chapters, to be centred around a massive thought crime punishment (as an aside, do you know, I still get royalties for that book, even now? I mean, it's not much, but it surprises me still, even as it is reprinted in German education texts). A Year in the City, the mosaic novel I wrote for my doctorate, used seasons and months to bring the sixteen different narrators together and my last novel, Beneath the Red Sun, had what I considered the hardest, longest braid of twin narratives that I had ever written--a structure I had used in short stories a lot already, but which didn't prepare me for over a hundred thousand words of balancing. I was pretty pleased with the result, however.

This book was no different in the importance of structure as a starting point. I imagined it as an ensemble cast and so I wanted a structure that would allow that to breath, settling on something similar to the large, sprawling episodes of TV shows like what HBO puts out, imagining the book very much like a 'season' in its flow and ebb. Well, to a degree. Time will tell if it works--like the structure of every narrative, they're subject to revisions and whims, and I haven't yet come up with a title, a slight but important aspect, as you might well imagine.

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