“In order to maximize the effect of the idea that you are trying to communicate it is preferable to give the story some form of defined shape so that it will have the right type of unity and sense of completeness to make a coherent and organised impression on the human mind.” So says Alan Moore and who are we to argue. Clearly structure is closely related to plot but the two are nonetheless distinct. Plot concerns conflict (between individuals, within an individual, between ideas, between an individual and a specific environment and so on) whereas structure is how that conflict is organised through a text. Certain genres will lend themselves to certain types of plots which in turn can lend themselves more easily to certain kinds of structures but none of this is fixed in stone.
There will always be a range of options available to a writer on how to structure a narrative. They may rely on a well-worn formula associated with a particular genre (and there’s nothing wrong with that – it’s well-worn for a reason and if it works, don’t knock it), they may combine the familiar and the innovative or they may come up with something entirely unique. Whatever structure the writer chooses, however, it shouldn’t become a straitjacket. As new ideas and possibilities pop up it may make sense to alter the structure to accommodate them. The key is that the writer knows what they’re doing and that the effect of the changes won’t undermine the overall sense of a coherent narrative.
The core element underpinning the structure of ‘Casanova in Paris’ is pretty simple – a crime to be solved. While being enormously flexible, at the same time it generates a strong sense of forward progress: you can meander off on to interesting by-ways confident in the knowledge that the underlying sense of purpose and direction will be retained. We begin our narrative with the attempt to destroy Paris Duverney having been underway for some time and we end it with a staggered resolution. This is our main plotline. The process of figuring out a crime allows you to move easily along different past and present timelines while simultaneously travelling into the future. It also allows you to hide and reveal information in a way which is both natural to the subject matter and which maximises the interest and curiosity of the audience. To that central core we’ve added three sub-plots, two of which relate directly to the main plot and a third which runs parallel to it. Of the two sub-plots which are tied to the main plot, one is visible and one is left in the shadows. The visible sub-plot is that of Gabrielle’s unwanted pregnancy which we introduce in chapter five. As the narrative progresses we merge this sub-plot with the main plot, giving that main plot added power and urgency as we drive towards the climax. The sub-plot which is left in the shadows is that of the rivalry between Bechard and de Bernis when only at the end is it revealed what has actually been going on. The conflict has been touched on in different places here and there but its full significance only becomes apparent with the first part of our staggered resolution. The parallel plot is that of the Venetian authorities’ ambition to capture Casanova and take him back to prison in Venice, a plot which is to be picked up and developed in part 2 of ‘Casanova in Paris’. This stretches back before our main plot is introduced, to the Prologue, and carries on beyond it. During the course of the narrative this parallel plot adds uncertainty and tension, a suggestion of other complicating events to come, but it is unclear to the audience how and what its relationship will be with the other plots. As far as part 1 is concerned, it takes on the quality of a false trail.
‘The Prologue’, and chapters 1 to 8 of ‘Casanova in Paris: The Shadows of the King’ are now freely available here.
6 long form articles on Casanova’s life and times are freely available here.
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