Finding a Story’s Architecture

In setting about the writing of the libretto for It Must Be Fate I wanted to weave the characters and their stories much the way tapestries are woven on the loom. If you were simply weaving two colours together, warp and wheft, then there would be little if no surprises. But when you add colours and pattern then the weave becomes more complicated. Like life, it can be difficult to see the overall pattern when you are looking too closely at a single line of weaving.

Now that we have audience tested our basic concept and characters I have turned to the writing of the body of the opera. I wish to develop my characters over the long stretch of the story, much in the way characters in film or TV are revealed – scene by scene. I also want to show the intersecting lives of my characters in as realistic a way as possible. The metaphoric use of tapestries and weaving provides my framework, but how exactly do I pattern the story? This is the question that is keeping me up at night.

I have been spending a lot of time this summer reading, watching DVDs and generally examining plot and story in the works of writers I admire in order to settle my ideas of the plot architecture for our opera. For books I’ve been reading Neil Gaiman, Scott Westerfield, Robert Lewis Stevenson, Morgan Llwelyn, Stephen R. Donaldson, Iain Banks… the list goes on. I’ve been watching West Wing, Heros, Sex and the City, Firefly, 24 and Buffy.

Like most writers I am a bit of a magpie and I pore over the writings of others gleaning tricks and techniques, extrapolating ideas and generally observing the ‘weave’ of their characters. Last night, watching season 1 of Heros I had a major epiphany… funny thing was it was not a ‘they did this and wasn’t that cool’ moment. It was rather a ‘they should have done this… wait, I should do that’ kind of moment!

So the architecture of my libretto is taking shape and Chip and I begin the process of weaving words and music together into the whole!


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