Alphabet Soup

Week 2 of my writing course is basically alphabet soup.

Take a story. Break it down into the main components that make is a successful story.

Aristotle is credited with doing this first by breaking a story – or play – down into 3 specific and necessary sections.

But for this class, Aristotle is too classic and they want to be more “modern”. Their word choice, not mine.

So we get alphabet soup instead.

Break a story down into 5 distinct sections: A, B, D, C, and E.

At first, it seems like a tongue twister joke by placing letters out of order.  I have to admit that my brain flinches each time I have to restrain it from reordering the letters. However, this 5 section format credited to the ancient poet, Horace, and distilled down by author Alice Adams, addresses the parts of a story in more detail than Aristotle.

The letters stand for Action, Background, Development, Climax, and Ending. You begin with action that is compelling enough to draw [the reader] in, make us want to know more. Background is where you … see and know who these people are, how they’ve come to be together, what was going on before the opening of the story. Then you develop these people, so that we learn what they care most about. The plot – the drama, the actions, the tension – will grow out of that. You move them along until everything comes together in the climax, after which things are different for the main characters, different in some real way. And then there is the ending: what is our sense of who these people are now, what are they left with, what happened, and what did it mean?

Anne Lamott describing Alice Adams’ writing process in Bird by Bird: Instructions on Writing and Life. Anchor: NY, 1995. p.62.

This week’s assignment – or call it a challenge – is to write 100-200 words (flash fiction) about a trip to a doctor or dentist office and using the 5 part story structure ABDCE.

Check back in a few days for my submission to Creative Writing: Craft of Plot on Coursera.

2 responses to “Alphabet Soup

  1. Pingback: I Think We’re Alone Now | Below Zero | Above Infinity·

  2. Pingback: The Power of Structure | Below Zero | Above Infinity·

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