Saturday, 7 April 2012


Back when I was a young whipper snapper, oh - must be around the time of the Ice Age - when I went to school we got "Composition".  That's what they called stories back then.  For a long time I thought it was just a fancy name that looked better on the front of your jotter than "stories".  Because as far as I could tell there was no difference.  

But composition is important, indeed crucial, to telling a good story (not that I learned that in school - the word itself was all I remember being taught).

I've come back to this recently because, in my quest to improve as an amateur artist I have encountered some interesting advice that pertains to writing as well as art. And it's this:  If you have trouble finishing a project, it's likely that the composition is wrong and no amount of tinkering will ever make it right.

So what is composition?  In art, it's the arrangement of elements in your picture. For a picture to be effective it has to be composed well from the outset, or the planning stage.  We need to be aware of the focal point - the punchline if you like.  Where is the eye drawn?  What is the ultimate point?

And stories are the same.  What is the message, or point of the story?  Are all the elements arranged to lead the reader to that point or does it lose focus?  In other words, is the story composed in such a way to carry the reader to the conclusion we want?

So, if you are constantly tinkering with a story and can't seem to get to a satisfactory conclusion, maybe your composition is off.  Maybe the characters aren't the best fit, or the setting, or the events.  It's food for thought.

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