Jay Sennett |||

Novel Writing - The Understory

Novel writing requires a complex set of skills ranging from plotting to dialogue to knowing everything that will happen on the page, before it happens. In November 2011, I wrote a novel for National Novel Writing Month. The experience itself remains unlike any other I’ve ever completed, participated in, done.

I struggled because I had not fleshed out what I thought was the back story. But, in fact, what I had not done was flesh out the understory. Steven Pressfield describes the understory as

…the architecture that undergirds and supports the surface story.

Pressfield goes on to describe examples from contemporary movies and greek tragedies on how the understory comes through to the surface of the story. I appreciate how he exhorts writers to reveal the understory through dialogue or direct action rather than flashbacks or voice over narration. Or the dreaded Prologue which now seesm to inhabit every mystery now being published in the U.S. I have concluded that authors include Prologues because they can’t or wont’ incorporate into the surface story. But I digress.

I’ve learned that novel writing may best be served by knowing as much as possible about such things as understory and backstory. Pressfield describes the difference as:

Backstory explains a character’s individual past and hints at her motivation. Understory is the story-architecture supporting the surface story.

Pottering about a novel results in a lot of written words and pages and some very huge holes in the manuscripts. I look forward to writing the understory for a novel I am working on now. Armed with Pressfield’s suggestions, the next draft will be measurably better.

Up next Gender Paradox, An Excerpt, Part 4 Gender Paradox: A Life is the title of my memoir. Below is the first part of a four part excerpt. I look forward to your feedback in the comments, Who Decides Who is Trans? Trans, a word not used in the news article about Elizabeth Rudavsky and Angelo Heddington, gets mentioned frequently in the comments at Queerty.
Latest posts On Regret Body Words from the Past Curated Reading in Progressive Art & Culture ∙ No. 3 Do the Work Before the Work Does You In The Dildo Dilemma Curated Reading in Progressive Art & Culture • No. 2 Curated Reading in Progressive Art & Culture • No. 1 Just Red Vintage Ypsilanti Reflections Incense Hot Cross Buns on the Way Steampunk Spaceship Breckenridge Untitled Dvision Distortion On Transsexual Metaphors At the Continental Club Voices in Time: Sylvia Rivera Quote: Language Clouds with Power Tower How to Write 1.2 Million Words a Year Caveat Scriptor: Let the Writer Beware Scribbler’s Paradise A Female to Male Transsexual Reflects on Gender and Biology Transsexual Intel on Wearing a Bow Tie Writing In and Out Images We, The Transsexuals Scribbler’s Paradise: 100% Effort You: A Transsexual Love Story Sincerely, Your Transgender Friend When a Beta Reader Says No