The Sunday Circle: Back on Time

(To learn more about the Sunday Circle, check out Peter M. Ball’s site here!)

I did pretty darn well this past week working on the novel WiP. I’m just about to Plot Point One, and I’ve managed to stay fairly happy with what’s going on the page each session, even if I sometimes have to backtrack, cut, and replace from time to time.

This Week I’m Working On: Continuing where I left off. 1k/day per usual, and keep chugging ahead. So far, I’ve made pretty good progress at that pace, and I’m hoping to keep it up as things in the story get more complicated.

What’s Inspiring Me This Week: For the last couple days I’ve been completely obsessed with the traditional Japanese/Chinese plot structure called kishōtenketsu. The idea of plot/maintaining interest by way of contradiction and twist vs. direct/combative conflict is fascinating to me. When I was in college, I read a fair amount of classic Chinese literature for my East Asian Studies degree, so it’s not entirely unfamiliar to me, but this is the first time I’ve considered how I might be able to play with it in my own fiction. Not the current project–that one’s pretty definitively three-act, but I’ve got a couple other allegorical stories that would be awkward to fit into the classic three-act structure, and might be better served with a structure more similar to kishōtenketsu. I’ve also been thinking about it in the context of children’s fiction, particularly as it relates/can be observed in some of Miyazaki’s films (notably, My Neighbor Totoro, which I have repeatedly tried to figure out plot-wise how it works, and never come to a particularly satisfying answer until reading this analysis of it.) One of the things that has always drawn me to Miyazaki’s work is often a total lack of a physical villain (not in all his works, of course, and often the “villain” is an idea, more than a person), and how generally most people in films like Totoro or Kiki’s Delivery Service are good and helpful and kind to the protagonists, even if they seem frightening at first. It’s a nice kind of thought-train when thinking about young children’s fiction, the idea of fiction without dire villains chasing you whom you must vanquish or destroy to survive. (Not that I don’t love me some Cauldron-Born…) And that deep sense of wonder–it makes me want to go back to look at some of Jules Verne’s work, too, which I read ages ago, but those books–as I recall them anyway–are so full of delight and wonder in their settings and worlds in classic milieu-plot fashion, it makes me wonder if there’s not some similarities (even unknown or unintentional) between those stories and kishōtenketsu-styled structure. Come to think of it, Baum’s Oz and it’s milieu-plots–though very much often about defeating X, or escaping Y–are vaguely similar, too, though they follow a much more typical plot pattern… And I love this example of a kishōtenketsu poem.

It’s still a thought-in-process, as you can tell, but I’m really relishing the brainstorm. :)

What I’m Avoiding this WeekRight now, not a huge amount. Just pushing through the typical beginning inertia of “I don’t wannas!” whenever I sit down in the evenings, but so far that hasn’t been too hard to overcome. I suspect it’ll get trickier with time. Oh! And looking at the weather forecast. Seriously, more snow?! I mean, I get that it’s winter, but jeez, does it have to come all in ONE WEEK?

2 thoughts on “The Sunday Circle: Back on Time”

  1. Hi Maggie, the kishōtenketsu plot theory sounds interesting. I like contradiction in story, so I’m interested to see how you go applying it to your work.
    I’m reading Jules Verne’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth at the moment – but in French. I do love the character of Alex and how frustrated he gets with his uncle. And the wide-eyed wonder is definitely there in the monsters & landscapes (and the sea) he describes…even if I don’t understand all the words!

    1. Oh man, I have these great vague memories of JthCotE–my mother read it to me when I was probably in 3rd or 4th grade (in English, of course, for me!), and I remember just loving it. And I still love that sense of wonder and amazement.

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