Fragments and Frustrations

Fragments and Frustrations

After spending months ardently soaking up the syllabus for this DIYMA provided by Andrew Wille, getting to grips with plot, structure, characters, psychic distance and beginning to think I might have a handle on how to write my opus I come to unit ten. Yet again my mind is pushed in a totally new direction as I try to fathom the ideas behind the ‘fragmented novel’.

I look at the list of examples and see I have read many of them; Cloud Atlas, The Time Travellers Wife, Atonement; also The Atrocity Exhibition, The illustrated man, The Martian Chronicles. In fact my current read, The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver, is also a fragmented novel.

Then I come to the challenge at the end of the theoretical reading. The application of Fragmentation to my current work. If anyone else would like to try this exercise, and I do recommend it, here is a link:

In a nutshell, the challenge is initially to write all the scenes in your current work on index cards, identifying the important changes that happen in the scene, an exercise that may resonate with screenplay writers. Andrew points out that this can be done electronically but suggests there is great value in ‘getting physical’ and I agree.

Just creating cards throws up all sorts of issues for me. Problems with temporality in the story, a plot hole or two (or more!), imbalance in the way characters feature. Probably enough to keep me occupied trying to repair it for quite some time without the vital second stage of the exercise.

Andrew suggests using Post-it notes for this part. Use the Post-it’s to identify the ‘connecting energy’ between scenes, in the spaces between the index cards. He gives suggestions for types of energy such as ‘surprises, juxtapositions, flashbacks’ and many more. You can, of course, add your own energy identifiers. So here it is, my embryonic and very unfinished idea for a story fragmented and linked with energy.

I can immediately see how I can move some scenes around and I also get a sense that I really want some scenes to stay where they are. It will be interesting to challenge that ‘sense’ and force them into a different place and see what comes about.


©2019 by Rik Lonsdale