So, over the past week, I’ve been working on the new StoryWonk Essentials classes (of which Structure and the Seven Anchor Scenes is the first) and it’s been fun, surprisingly fun. I actually get excited about this stuff, even though I’ve taught it a thousand times. So let me share something that should come as no surprise if you know me at all: I’m a Structure Wonk.
Which is funny, because when I first started learning craft, I hated structure most of all. I thought it was out to get me, to steal my magic, to make me formulaic, to kill my spark. (In the same way that a shark could take things personally, I believed that a concept was out to get me. Looking back at it now, yes, it seems a little silly, but hey. So does Jaws.)
Now, I’ve been teaching structure for years, and every time I teach it, I learn something new, tease out a new angle on it, and I get excited about it like a big nerd. I remember a few years ago, I was at a dinner meeting with my then-editor and my agent, and they were asking me about the new book (which would later become A Little Night Magic) and I went on about where the turning points were without even noticing how their eyes were glazing over until about twenty minutes in. Then I stopped talking about it, and commented on how great the chocolate mousse was, because I am sensitive to interpersonal social cues.
After about twenty minutes.
That’s a wonk, and I am one. I get excited about the interplay of acts and anchor scenes. I love figuring out little angles on how to use structure, how to understand it. Not everyone else shares my passion, and I understand that, but I’m also convinced that if they only knew structure better, I would be able to convince them of how cool it is.
I remind myself a little bit of my ex’s dad. He’s a renowned herpetologist—that’s snakes, folks—and he absolutely loves what he does. I, myself, am not a fan of snakes. They frighten me, and I avoid them at all costs. But whenever I was with Cecil, his love of snakes and lizards infected me, and I could appreciate them. (Only when I’m with him, as it turns out; we went to the Cincinnati Aquarium when Krissie was here, and I zipped past the snakes. Ugh.) But there was something about being in Cecil’s presence when he was in the presence of snakes and lizards that made the enthusiasm contagious, and I caught it. I always loved that about him, the way that he could love something so much that it made me appreciate something I ordinarily hated. I think it’s one of the most wonderful qualities a person can have, and I’m glad I have it, even if it means I’m a little annoying at dinner meetings.
Okay. Maybe a lot annoying.
I hope my kids get that, either from me or from their grandfather. Enthusiasm is such a precious gift, but it makes us vulnerable. It means we’re likely to appear uncool, or boring to other people. It means people’s eyes are going to glaze over at dinner and we won’t notice until it’s too late.
But it also means we have passion, and I think that’s a fair trade.
(Oh, and speaking of geeking out, how beautiful is this design of the Seven Anchor Scenes that Alastair did? I love that man. I’ve been making that chart for years, and this is the most elegant it’s ever looked. Yay!)