Friday, 16 September 2016

Fibbin' Archie - Introduction

Fibbin’ Archie as an experiment

I have wondered for some time about the presence of the Golden Segment in literature. Those of us who like literature certainly recognise that stories presented in literary form have a shape that includes a beginning, a middle that follows certain conventions, but not too strictly, and an end. If these are out of balance we notice. But is this a learned response or is it natural?
The presence of the Fibonacci series in nature tends to suggest that we are dealing with something natural here. This series of numbers can be traced in the patterns of sunflower seeds, in rabbits breeding and in branch formation in plants and trees, to give just a handful of examples. In this experiment I have set out to work with this series. One might sub-title this novel “Writing by Numbers”. The first chapter is one word long, the final one is 28,657. I have labelled each chapter simply by the number in the series it represents.
In doing this I’ve not completely ruled out my normal way of planning fiction. Distilled from various story theories I find work for me, and in particular that of Robert McKee, the shape I favour is:
Inciting incident
Growing complexities (usually three)
Climax (This is actually the gap between the crisis and the resolution and generally where all the excitement is. From this point onwards life can never be quite the same again for the protagonist, however the story resolves. Everything up to now was a rehearsal for this big moment.)     
A more complex novel – and Fibbin’ Archie is complex – will have sub plots. How sub plots relate to the main plot is also to do with the Golden Segment. Andrew Melrose identifies a plot pyramid in Write For Children and I build upon that work in Writing for Young Adults.      
The Fibonacci series anyway produces the Golden Segment. We see this in the ratio of any two adjacent numbers in the series to their sum. That is there in the formula described above. There are echoes of it in the three act structure and the five act structure from the world of film and television and the slightly different version of this in stage play.
This is how I worked the mathematics out for Archie.

Inciting incident





60019 crisis


Note that the crisis point happens at about word 60019.  So there is a build up to it and then we come back down to the resolution. Once I reached word 46,368 I knew I had to make the stakes higher. 
Christopher Vogler suggests that sometimes we can follow a formula too rigidly. He identified what works for the film industry and based his suggestions for story on Joseph Campbell’s work. Vogler suggests that it is often more satisfying for the consumer when that formula is skewed slightly. The formula is skewed slightly in Archie. Content spills round the edges of word count. It could be, perhaps that numbers aren’t accurate enough to pinpoint exactly when events need to occur. What I have stuck to rigidly here is the word count per section, and then shaped the content to the section.   
At the end of the book I’ll be giving you some more information about what it was like writing this way. I welcome commentary on this project and for once this is a book I don’t mind you giving away for free; the more people who read it the better. By all means put the usual reviews on Amazon and Good reads, good or bad. I’d also welcome direct commentary which I’ll like to publish verbatim or collated in summary if there is a huge response. Please send your comments to
Thank you for taking the time to read Fibbin’ Archie.
You must have noticed the pun by now. It is, of course, deliberate.