Jenn Manley Lee



A recent mention of Dicebox on Fleen has given me reason me to re-read some earlier interviews I did including one for Sequential Tart that, like the Fleen entry, concentrates on the story side of Dicebox, as opposed to simply the art. Both say some nice things about the writing and I'm pleased particularily pleased with Kate Ditzler's response to the dialogue. But what provoked this process entry is one comment from Lee Atchison's introduction to the Sequential Tart interview where she praised the story for "its careful, deliberate pacing." I get a warm glow from that remark--but is it true? I mean, can I safely take credit for it? Yes and no.

It's true that I have my outlines, charts, plot points, symbolic climaxes, etc and so forth written down, planned and mapped for each book and encompassing the entire story that is Dicebox. But I actually run on a lot of gut instinct when I write Dicebox, I have strong emotional impressions of certain passages that I can't quite quantify, let alone articulate--don't get me started on scripting it. I know what needs to be accomplished in each book for the growth of the story as well as the growth of the characters, and have outlined each book pretty thoroughly.

And yet I can totally tear down and rewrite the outline for Book Two (like I did this past winter) and have the same things happen in a broad sense even if the events, sequence and supporting cast almost all change--if in purpose if not presence. And end up with that Book telling the same exact story as before--only more so.

I know what the story needs to be, how it ends and the major moves that'll take to get there, logistically and emotively. I really don't grok the idea of hanging a story on a plot structure formula, not Aristotle's three act, nor Freytag's five act, both of which are defined in this diagram:

But, to my horror, I might be following this charted structure. Kinda. I mean, I do describe Book 4 as a dénouement, and it is the natural end of the story. But I say it ends a bit higher on the tension axis; I'm definitely untying things but not necessarily relieving anxiety. Maybe I've been influenced by a life time of being told stories in following this structure. As Dicebox is a reaction to all the stories I've yet read, watched or listened to, I guess that's okay.

All that does still feel pretty considered and structured, huh? But I'm not mentioning my spur of the moment rewriting of a page because of how an expression came out in the second [panel that was a mistake transformed into inspiration. Which can mean I'm rewriting the following pages if not the next chapter. Or, hey, the fact that I haven't actually fully scripted the second half of this chapter. I know what happens, it's three distinct scenes and all that. And I keep debating if that second half doesn't actually begin Chapter 7. Because the end of scene 6 of this chapter would make a damn nice end to this Chapter and bring it to about 34 pages at that point. If I did that, it would mean that I'd break an earlier promise and give lie to this cover art for Chapters 4 through 6. Never mind I might not be giving my next fill-in artist enough notice.

Hmm. I am really fond of how Chapter 7 begins at the moment, though I don't know if not having the formal break of a Chapter before that current opening scene would change its impact--perhaps just having the break of a scene change is good enough. 'Cause the natture of that break is important and meaningful to me, part of where I'm very deliberate in pacing. But equally as important are the themes of each Chapter, and, man, moving those three scenes to the start of Chapter 7 would actually strengthen the theme of that Chapter. A lot. Damn.

I might have just talked myself in to this.