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A good lesson in narrative. But not the last word.
on February 16, 2000
This book is an excellent dissection of the resolution/conflict story form. It is clear, analytical, and well--well, it's well organized, as I guess you'd expect from a structure guide.
Not that conflict/resolution form is an innovative idea. The manual's virtue is that the author carves up the trusty model, showing you its guts and the tendons that hold it together.
In that sense, I found it very sound and helpful. I disagree, however, with his dismissing of the power of phrase and sound and lyric. "What the reader wants is story," he says. But a story written in clanky prose has an ending I won't take the time to discover. The drive for suspense, suspense, relief! can captivate the reader of pop fiction, but not always the thinker. Give us word magic---plus plot--and we'll take the trip.
Using sound and lyric and dead-on description pulls the reader along. Read the visual and musical prose of Don Delillo or TC Boyle. The language is reason enough to read the novels. But mastering lyric and eye takes talent, not a schematic.
The author also dismisses "conflicts without resolutions" in newspaper writing. Well, we wouldn't well have news then. Elections, mysterious plane crashes, murders...these things are not resolved. They belong in the paper because we need to know now. Those stories are not art; they are public service.
The well-worn conflict-resolution form Franklin champions is a winner. But it's not the only one, even in fiction. Simple character studies and elaborate, multi-plot works can deviate from this simple model for differing reasons. They are still valid, just as Haiku is still poetry.
I'd advise the reporter and writer searching for principles of sound narrative structure to read this book. No question. But take the guide's "this way or the highway" mandates as laws governing one literary domain.