The Ditchwalk Book Club is reading and discussing Rust Hills’ seminal work, Writing in General and the Short Story in Particular. Announcement here. Overview here. Tag here.
In this section Hills makes an extended analogy between the structure of a sentence and the structure of a story. I think the analogy is useful, but particularly so because Hills himself doesn’t lose sight of the objective:
Here I want to stress only the idea of agreement. There is agreement between all the parts of a sentence…
In the previous sections Hills acknowledged that mystery and conflict as methods will create suspense for the reader. His concern is that they do so in a way that negatively impacts other aspects of the story. Tension, as a method of suspense, supports agreement.
This is the crux of everything Hills has to say about writing fiction. There are ways to write that damage agreement among the parts of your story, and there are ways to write that enhance agreement. In all cases enhancing agreement produces a qualitative improvement that directly impacts reader enjoyment of your work.
To use a fixed action instead of a moving action as the plot of a story would be like using a participle instead of a verb in a sentence.
Hills closes the section by bridging from plot/action to character. Just as there must be agreement in action, and in the methods used to relate moving action, so too must there be agreement in character, and in the potential of a character to be moved.
Next up: Movement of Character.
— Mark Barrett