Writers On Writing / Andrew Pippos on narrative time and structure


“At the micro level, most stories call for a mixture of different modes of prose, such as Scene, Summary, and Pause. That mixture — the duration of the story — can make all the difference to the success of the narrative.”


Writers on Writing - Andrew Pippos

Writers on Writing is our regular conversation with a writer or industry professional about the writing craft, industry insights, and their own practice. This week, we spoke to Andrew Pippos about the importance of narrative time and structure.

Why is harnessing narrative time and structure such an important skill for writers?

Harnessing time is crucial at the macro and micro level of the story. At the larger level, we must make decisions about which order to present the events of the narrative. Will there be flashbacks or flashforwards? Will we present the events in a non-linear way to emphasise certain themes or characters or plot developments? At the micro level, most stories call for a mixture of different modes of prose, such as Scene, Summary, and Pause. That mixture — the duration of the story — can make all the difference to the success of the narrative.

In your course, you’ll look at different writers’ approaches to time and structure. Do you have any favourite works that use narrative time in a way that is effective/ innovative?

Nabokov’s Pnin; Jennifer Egan’s Visit From the Goon Squad; Vivian Gornick’s Fierce Attachments. And so many techniques for harnessing time come from The Iliad. 

How did you approach time and structure in your own debut novel, Lucky’s?

I couldn’t include every significant event in the main character’s life because the novel spans 80-odd years. The structure of Lucky’s is designed to capture moments that are thematically important.  

Lastly – any books you’ve enjoyed recently?

Shannon Burns’s Childhood and Raven Leilani’s Luster. 
 

Andrew Pippos is a Sydney writer who lectures in creative writing at the University of Technology Sydney. His writing has appeared in MeanjinThe Sydney Review of BooksCatapult and Electric Literature. His novel, Lucky’s, won The Readings Prize for Australian Fiction, and was shortlisted for the 2021 Miles Franklin award, and the Prime Minister’s Literary award.

Join Andrew’s course, Narrative Time and Structure, Saturday 3 December at Writing NSW. Enrol here >>

Narrative time and structure with Andrew Pippos

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