This is an example of how to template a chapter for the Exploratory Writing Workshop
Templating a Chapter
In the Exploratory Workshop Workshop (EWW) you will be writing vignettes. In teaching prior classes I've found that many vignettes lack some of the basic components common to good story telling. As a result I want you to have a clear understanding of what these are before you get started. I have used Game of Thrones1, Chapter One, Bran as an example.
There were nine key writing components I noted in the chapter. I've abridged the chapter copying down enough to show an example of what I'm talking about here.
I counted, roughly, the total number of words in the chapter. Using the components cited below I then block-counted the words in each category. I divided the big number into the little one. This showed me a percentage of the words that were dedicated to each of the nine components I found. Keeping the percentage in mind I would then seek to have roughly those same percentages in my first vignette.
PLEASE! These percentages are a Stupid Wild Ass Guess (SWAG) and not intended to obsess over and nit-pick about. They get you into the ballpark of the distribution a writer needs to include in a typical chapter. While there's some arithmetic don't go getting compulsive over the math.
There were approximately 3,250 words in the chapter from Game of Thrones. Below, numbered one through nine is the chapter template. If you want you can do one of your own, using an author whose work you particularly admire. If you don't, then print off the one below and tape it to your workstation.
1. Backstory - 200 words 6%
2. Character Development - 400 words 12%
3. Scene Setting - 400 words 12%
4. Exposition that moves the story - 1000 words 31%
5. Dialogue that moves the story - 1150 words 35%
6. Foreshadowing - 25 Words 1%
7. Symbolism - 25 Words 1%
8. Interior Dialog - 25 Words 1%
9. Subtext: Gobs
Total Words - 3250
Let's review each of these components.
Backstory He remembered the hearth tales . . . the Wildlings were cruel men . . . slavers and slayers and thieves. They consorted with giants and ghouls and stole girl children and drank blood from horns. Their women lay with the “Others” in the long winter nights and birthed half human children.
Character Development It was the seventh year of Bran’s life. Bran's father sat solemnly on his horse, long brown hair straining in the wind. His closely trimmed beard shot with white. He looked older than thirty-five years. He had grim cast to his grey eyes. He'd taken off Father’s face, Bran thought, and donned the face of Lord Stark of Winterfell. Bran’s bastard half-brother, Jon Snow, moved closer. He was of an age with Robb but they did not look alike. Jon was slender where Robb was muscular . . . dark where Robb was fair, graceful and quick, where his half-brother was strong and fast.
Scene Setting It was the ninth year of summer. The morning had dawned cold . . . set forth to see a man beheaded . . . Bran rode with them . . . the man was taken at a small Holdfast . . . He had lost both ears to frostbite . . . He was dressed all in black as the Night Watch. The breath of man and horse mingled . . . Over their heads flew the banner of the Starks of Winterfell.
Exposition That Moves the Story Two men dragged the ragged man to the ironwood stump and his ward Theon Grayjoy brought forth the sword “Ice.” It was wide as a man’s hand and taller than Robb. The blade held an edge like Valyrian steel. The head bounced off a root and rolled . . .
His father rode up to him.
Half buried in the blood-stained snow a huge dark shape slumped in death. Ice had formed on its shaggy grey fur and the faint smell of corruption clung to it like a woman’s perfume. Bran glimpsed blind eyes crawling with maggots and a wide mouth filled with yellowed teeth. But it was the size of it that made him gasp. It was bigger than his pony and twice the size of the largest hound in his father’s kennel.
Bran saw his father’s eyes change, saw the other men exchange glances. He loved Jon with all his heart at that moment. Even at seven, Bran understood what his brother had done. The count had come right only because Jon omitted himself. He had included the girls, included even Rickon, the baby, but not the bastard who bore the sur-name Snow, the name that custom decreed be given to all those in the north unlucky enough to be born with no name of his own.
He swung his horse around and galloped back across the bridge. They watched him dismount where the direwolf lay dead in the snow, watched him kneel. A moment later he was riding back to them, smiling. His fur was white where the others were grey. His eyes were as red as the blood of the ragged man who had died that morning.
Dialogue That Moves the Story “In the name of . . . I sentence you to die.” “Keep the pony well in hand." “Don’t look away.” ”The deserter died bravely.” “You did well.” “He had courage at the least.” “No, it was not courage . . . this one was dead of fear.” ”The others take his eyes . . . he died well . . . race you to the bridge.”
"Are you well Bran?” ”Robb says the man died bravely but Jon says he was afraid.” “What do you think?” “Can a man still be brave and be afraid?” “That is the only time a man can be brave,” his father said. “Do you understand why I did it?” “He was a Wielding” Bran said, “They carry off women and sell them to the others.” “Old Nan has been telling your stories . . . the man was an oath-breaker, a deserter from the Night’s Watch. No man is more dangerous. The deserter knows his life is forfeit if taken so he will not flinch from any crime no matter how vile . . . but you mistake me. The question is not that the man had to die but why I had to be the executioner.” “King Robert has a headsman.” He does . . . as the Targaryen Kings before him . . . yet our way is the older way. The blood of the first men still flows in the veins of the Starks and we hold the belief that the man who passes the sentence should swing the sword. If you would take a man’s life you owe it to him to look into his eyes and hear his final words . . . and if you cannot bear to do that then perhaps the man does not deserve to die.” “One day Bran you will be Robb’s banner man, holding a keep of your own for your brother and king . . . when the day comes you may take no pleasure in it but neither must you look away. A ruler who hides behind executioners soon forgets what death is.”
Foreshadowing “He must have crawled away from the others.” “Or been driven away,” their father said. Jon Snow said, “This one belongs to me. A ruler who hides behind executioners soon forgets what death is.”
Symbolism Bran thought it curious that this pup alone had opened his eyes while the others were still blind.
There are other components such as Flashbacks and Interior Dialog that your favorite author might have used, which are not present in the above example. What I've shown is by no means all inclusive.
Sometimes a line can be placed in one or more categories. Where this happens you can post the line twice.
When you've finished send me your chapter template and post the result on your story board, or somewhere you can see it, and be constantly reminded of the components your vignettes need to include.
Percy Goodfellow - Workshop Instructor
Links to The Exploratory Writing Workshop
Welcome Letter - "Exploratory Writing Workshop Welcome"
Introduction - "Intro - Exploratory Writing Workshop "
Assignment Overview - "The Weekly Assignment Overview Page"
Assignment Forum - "Classroom (Assignment Forum) of EWW"
Dictionary of Writing Terms "Dictionary of Terms"