Sunday, December 4, 2011

First Drafts

First drafts for nonfiction are more difficult to come by than first drafts for story; they require the kind of thematic focus that is a different mindset.  You find yourself thinking in thematic terms, then trying to follow through on your approach to first draft of not thinking.  You have a particular goal in mind for the Preface to The Dramatic Genome, which you have been trying to let percolate in order to get something down, then come back to it for the first draft—without much thought at all.

A first draft for a story requires little more than a character in some kind of motion that feels relevant to what the story appears to want to become.  There is a confidence in knowing how dramatically this may change, allowing you to progress until, if you’re using a note pad, the margins and lines are filled with text and emendations, whereupon you have already made a few connections and are free to think a bit, here and there.

All right, you’ve fussed and stewed long enough with your goal of a first draft to the Preface of Genome.


The genome is a container for the total information about the hereditary traits of an organism.  These traits are coded into the cells of all living beings.

Story is a living record of actual, imaginary, and potential beings.

Story is also a way to make intuitive sense of our possibilities as a species; it is stored in all forms of dramatic narrative.  In recent years, story has also been discovered to be a vital component in biography, autobiography, memoir, and history.

This book links the genetic wealth of humans with the dramatic varieties of story people tell one another.

The science of genetics has grown exponentially from early speculation about plants and insects to its present urgency to understand how living things—humans among them—evolve and behave.  The geneticist’s curiosity is no less driven to discover relevant origins and behavior than the quantum physicist’s urge to discover “how it all began,” or the dramatist’s ardent curiosity to decode the human condition.

Story has progressed from oral recitations of heroic or cautionary activity to the stunning product of dramatic event.  At every turn, when we read the stories of others, attempt to catch the lightening in a bottle of our own visions, or present workable concepts of narrative to students, we are reaching into the storehouse of literary genetic information that is the dramatic genome.

In the chapters that follow, we will walk you through the causes and effects—hereditary and environmental—of story.  Our goals are to show you where the dramatic genome resides in short story, novel, stage and screenplay, where it lives in you, and how to call it out."

 For the moment, that gives you as much as necessary to nudge you into the actual text of the chapters, a process of discovery that will carry you light years beyond the outline that attempted to capture the aforementioned lightening that provided the idea for the book and your joint attempts to get it down on paper which extends the metaphor of capturing it in a bottle.

Preface:  What this book is.  What this book will do for you.  Why us.

Chapter One:  What is your story?

Who are you?  What do you bring to your narrative that gives it your dramatic genome?  How to find out who you are and what you bring.

Chapter Two: What story is and is not

A definition of long and short form narrative, a series of short stories as the modern novel, the play, the teleplay, and the screenplay.

Chapter Three:  Scene, the basic dramatic unit.  A working description of what a scene is.

Chapter Four: Voice, Attitude, Theme, and Landscape; Text and Subtext; how the story comes to life.

Chapter Five: The importance of the mystery/suspense novel for all fiction writers.  The importance of alternate universe novels for all fiction writers.

Chapter Six:  The Difference between Commercial, Literary, and Author-driven Stories:  author- and plot-driven vs. character/concept driven

Chapter Seven: Your personal dramatic genome test:  how to rank and identify your writing traits, a self-evaluation that makes you your own (as it should be) mentor.

Chapter Eight: Where your characters come from.
Who they are, what they want, what they’re willing to do to get what they want: how and where to find them

Chapter Nine: Opening velocity.  How to get your characters moving, how to pace them and keep them off balance

Chapter Ten:  Why we should care and how to make us do so.

Chapter Eleven:  What’s so funny?  Humor and irony as subtext.

Chapter Twelve:  Point of view.  Who’s telling your story and why.

Chapter Thirteen:  Dialog, the language of dramatic writing.

Chapter Fourteen:  Narrative:  All that glitters is not told.

Chapter Fifteen:  Discovery:  The things you’ll discover about yourself and your writing

Other writers just unlike you
A reading list of stories, novels, and plays to illustrate the points raised in this text

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I'm interested already.