I heart structure!
There is freedom in structure. I think this might be another of those paradoxical truths I love so much. It seems like freedom and structure shouldn’t go together at first glance but I have found that they do.
Screenplays are built on structure. Within that writing world, the experts debate on how to prioritize it. Some say structure is the foundation to be built upon while others say it’s the natural outgrowth of good storytelling. Either way, I think everyone can agree that it’s absolutely necessary.
The actor’s process, in my experience, is incredibly varied and personal. There are many methods and schools of thought but ultimately, how each actor arrives at their readiness for performance is incredibly unique and often mysterious. For me, the more I can ground my preparation in something real and tangible, the better and more consistent I am at turning in a compelling performance. I think another way to characterize that is structure.
To demystify, an example is that when I built a character for class, I created activities for her to do that I thought would feed the scene. I wrote letters to family members I created for her. I wrote journal entries as her that talked about major events in her life. I even created an envelope where heartfelt letters she wrote were returned to her by her unfeeling mother. All of that gave me the structure I needed to get to a strong emotional place for performance time.
Novel writing has been an important extension of the value of structure. Because I’ve learned so much about three act structure and how to create beats in screenplay writing, I have easily integrated that into my novel writing experience. I created a really broad outline and then created a more detailed one from there. I kept bringing it down to a more detailed level until I was ready to actually begin.
Then, I structured the time itself. I knew I would write from 4:30 am-6:30 am, four mornings a week. I looked at my finishing deadline and figured out my daily word count goal. Then, I proved it was possible on my first day of writing and I haven’t looked back. I write from one character’s point-of-view each day so I’m focused on one perspective at a time. Structure, structure, structure.
But here’s the thing: I have found such freedom in this! When I sit down, I know where I’m going and I have confidence in my plan. Because I’ve already done that planning and thinking ahead of time I can rest that part of my brain. Then, I can commune with my characters and God (Life, the muse, whatever you call it) and we can work without distraction. We are not trying to do anything except tell our piece of the story for that day in the most effective way we can. It has allowed my fingers to fly and for me to quiet the critical censor that used to get in my way.
I am so grateful I’m not fighting a battle against structure and I embrace it for the freedom-giver it is!