Writing Narration: Execution

skeleton-flesh

Prompt

Write three passages written in third-person narration, each conveying the same plot but using different structures: the first merely a summary-like “skeleton” of the scene (At least a few sentences long); the second fleshing it out by adding the “meat” such as dialogue, sensory description, distinctive characters, etc. (At least one lengthy paragraph); and the third an alternative, more in-depth retelling, using a more fleshed-out structure (At least 1/2 – a single page long).

The final structure should be at least ½ – 1 page long.

Example:

  1. Joke woke. He tossed the covers back. A moment later he was standing by the bed on the rug.
  2. Joe woke. Dragging one hand from beneath the covers into the chill, he twisted the heel of his thumb against one eye socket. Then he snagged his fingers around the coverlet’s edge. He raised it—and the chill slid down his arm, along his side some eighteen inches. Dragging in a breath, he raised the covers further. Somewhere below, something put two cold palms over his kneecaps. He heard breath halt a moment in his throat. The bedding beneath his shins was suddenly so warm. He gave the quilt’s rim a toss and began to kick free even before it fell, off below the bottom of the t-shirt he slept in these November nights. One foot made it from the mattress edge, then the other—as the first slid from under the blanket to hang an instant, an isolate entity out in the cold room. He pushed into the pillow with his fist, so that his shoulders rose; his feet lowered. A moment later he was standing by the bed on the rug.
  3. Waking assailed Joe and retreated, a wave foaming up and sliding from the sands of day. At its height, there was a sense or a memory of dark green sheets beneath his belly, his knees, the pillow bunched under his shoulder, the quilt across his ear. Rising and retreating at an entirely different oscillation was sexual desire, now an unfocused and pulling emptiness, now a warm fullness in the groin, a sensitivity within his slightly parted lips under the susurras of breath. Somehow the cycles met. He opened his eyes—aware of the room’s silence. (But what had he been aware of before…?) He could feel the dawn moisture drying along his lower lids. Dragging one hand from beneath the covers into the chill, he twisted the heel of his thumb against one eye socket. Then he snagged his fingers around the coverlet’s edge. He raised it—and the chill slid down his arm, along his side some eighteen inches. Dragging in a breath, he raised the covers further. Somewhere below, something put two cold palms over his kneecaps. He heard breath halt a moment in his throat. The bedding beneath his shins was suddenly so warm. He gave the quilt’s rim a toss and began to kick free even before it fell, somewhere below the bottom of the t-shirt he slept in these November nights. One foot made it off the mattress edge, then the other—as the first slid from under the blanket to hang an instant, an isolate entity out in the cold room. He pushed into the pillow with his fist, so that his shoulders rose; his feet lowered. The shag rug’s nap trickled his soles, till the weight of his legs crushed it away beneath. Every damned bone in his feet had to move this way or that a couple of millimeters, it seemed, to get into the right position—and in the left foot, that hurt! He pushed himself forward, the hem of his limp t-shirt swinging forward over his upper thighs. As his body lifted, a cold blade of morning slid beneath his buttocks and down toward the backs of his knees. (Somewhere the springs clashed, muffled below the mattress.) It felt as if someone were shoving at his right kidney with the flat of a hand. He put his own hand there to rub the feel away. He blinked, standing in the silent room, flexing his chill toes on the rug, aware (or was it more a memory of something he’d been half conscious of before waking?) he had to go to the bathroom.

–“Some Notes for the Intermediate and Advanced Creative Writing Student” by Samuel Delany.

Rationale

As creative writers, it is important to understand that the different ways to write a single scene are infinite, some ways more effective than others. A writer could conjure the best plot humanity has ever beheld, but the execution could make it the least compelling story you’ve ever read. Exploring different ways to convey the same plot will allow you to see the distinction between a compelling execution of a story and a poorly-executed version of the same story. When it comes to creating a good story, it doesn’t matter if you have an excellent plot if its execution doesn’t compel your readers.

For Later

Complete this prompt by Thursday, February 23, then see part 2.

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