The Heartbeat of Story
I can’t quite remember why I first did this back in 2013, two years before publication. Curiosity, I suppose. I know I had seen some theory about story arc and I think I must have wanted to see how I Am Not Gog fared under some analysis, at least. I’m really not one for creating from theory or formulas, most of them appear to be common sense dressed up in fancy words, from Aristotle to today’s (culturally and ethically problematic) literary agency ‘writing courses’. I’m a sucker for a nice graph, so I broke the novel down into its thirty-six scenes and put them into a spreadsheet and estimated how much drama each contained on a scale of one to a hundred. Each scene may contain some calm as well as drama, but I focused on the drama content. It is not precise. Every time I go through the estimations afresh, I do some tweaking of the numbers, but it is generally a fair indication of how the drama waxes and wanes throughout the story. How it stacks up against any theory or formula, I have no idea. It seems to look quite healthy as a story, though. I’ve always worried about the start being a bit slow and, shortly before publication, I came very close to a major restructuring to make the start more formulaic and arresting, but I was persuaded by my most trusted advisor to keep it as it is. I have to hope there is enough ‘engine’ and ‘hooks’ in there to draw the reader toward the more lively parts to come. The rest of it seems to have good rhythm throughout, and there are three decent climaxes where you would pretty much want them to be. This whole exercise was like wiring a patient up to an ECG and monitoring her heartbeat. Technically, it seems, this old girl ought to live.