Building Structure in Farmer’s Son
I’ve been asked how I structure plot. Not so much how I make characters cause the effects that advance the drama but how I choose the framework to tell the story.
In Farmer’s Son, I announce it. Each section begins with a page that tells the reader the season, the year, and the point of view character. Every scene then occurs within those narrow months of that given year, with each being driven by that particular POV character. Bobby, our lead, appears in every scene of the first section, to establish his voice and stakes and motivation. His father Garrett drives each scene of the third because by then we need to hear from a character so hated. Not every reader notices this explicit structure, but that’s good (I tell myself), for that means the shifts aren’t clunky.
Why did I do it that way? Because I wanted to dip into the subjectivity of each of the four leads, dwelling for a time within their unique personal lives distinct from each other. And I didn’t want to spend a hundred pages doing it each time. Rather, I wanted more of a drop-in, a capture of what mattered, and then a moving on, which I hoped would also mesh the individuals into a family. I hoped with this structure that, when the climax came, the reader would intuitively understand where each of the four leads was coming from, why they each have to do what they do, and how their actions so tragically impact the others. At the end, I wanted the reader to feel and see all the facets of a troubled, loving, fighting and eventually redeeming family.
I had no template for this, no model, no one to tell me that you just do not build a climax with four characters. Actually five, if you count catalyst Cora. That’s way, way too many people with conflicting stakes in the outcome. But I’m told the climax works.
I built Alternate Endings differently because the story required an entirely different approach, which I’ll describe in my next post.
Thanks for reading!