form follows fiction

I never start with form – I always start with characters (which is why it took a ridiculous amount of time for me to figure out that I’m a mystery writer), but occasionally I’m attracted by one form or another.

There is a formal structure in particular which has always appealed to me, but I’d never used it before because I didn’t have a story that needed it.

It’s the form of In Our Time – Hemingway’s first short story collection – which had a series of short stories with shorter pieces (the “interchapters,” as they are sometimes called) in between. The alternating color and black & white sections of the movie Memento work in a similar way also. This is a rhythm which has always appealed to me, but now I finally have a story which works with it.

The main chapters of my current story move forward in time, but the “interchapters” are a series of scenes from a single night, months earlier, which holds some of the keys to what’s happening “now.” So, the reader gradually learns what happened on that night (but not, I hope, in a mechanical or obvious way).

And, since the interchapters take place in the past, it means the story moves back and forth through time, which something else that I’ve also always liked. A Sane Woman basically travels backwards through time until the end, as you can tell from the chapter titles. and U-town circles around through time in several different ways (in larger and smaller circles).

Oh, and the story has a title now, too: “One Night at the Quarter.”

Hope you like it.

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