In writing class last night, we spent a lot of time discussing the physical shape of prose–how it appears on the page. I had always thought of form, shape, line, and pattern as applying only to poetry, but was fascinated to hear about the importance of these features to works of fiction.
I think many writers have a natural inclination to vary sentence and paragraph lengths, emphasize and deemphasize words, and use repetition the way a speaker uses these things to keep the audience engaged. Due to television and the pace of society, today’s audience has a shorter attention span than that of generations preceding it. Authors like James Patterson and Dan Brown–who deliver two-page, plot driven chapters in rapid succession–experience wide popularity; for better or for worse.
What I found most interesting in last night’s discussion was the shape of the short story, which–our instructor asserted–is round. (This round shape is in contrast to Freytag’s pyramid, which is the form a novel often takes.) We were given many examples of short stories that started with a statement (that would, most likely, be disproven), built the case supporting the statement, reached a turning point, tore down what was built in the beginning, and rounded to completion, revisiting the statement from the beginning, but with irony and power.
Until last night, I had never thought of prose as visual art.