Saturday Structure Study is a chance for me to break down and examine story structure from a variety of sourcesa.
A Christmas Carol, a classic story I’ve heard told time and again in different ways. Through multiple television adaptations and a stage play or two, it’s been ingrained into memory. Even so, I had never read it!
I approached it finally because my family watched the latest adaptation, starring Jim Carrey, on Netflix. Realizing my error, I immediately downloaded it to my kindle and dove in. The first thing I noted about it was that it is incredibly brief. Much shorter than I believed it must be.
So I dive in, and find Scrooge the character all of the adaptations would have us believe! A grouchy old man, worse in fact in my mind than I had previously assumed. I couldn’t even find pity in the character introduced to us, as his own nephew claimed during his visions.
But then, I noticed something strange. Scrooge was not as hard as I had believed. His development was slow, a single change wrought at a time. There was no epiphany, but a slow layering of realization. By the time he was begging the Phantom for a second chance, I felt for him.
Structurally, Dickens knew his stuff. The plot hits the benchmarks that Larry Brooks defined so well in Story Engineering about the right time, and the pace rarely slows. Part one paints a very clear picture of Scrooge, and Marley’s Ghost presents a spectacular inciting incident and first plot point. Part two encompasses nearly all of the Spirits Past and Present, leading Scrooge from place to place to encounter his wrongs. The fright at the end of the second Spirit presented the midpoint turn, and Scrooge’s development to speak to the Phantom and even command it to show him things demonstrates the approach toward becoming the hero that Brooks described as critical to part three. The second plot point is obviously the graveyard, and a stellar moment for Scrooge to make his final decision and go on his way a changed man.
As a matter of taste, I felt Dickens spent too much time occasionally on describing the place, and sometimes the storyteller’s asides were quite distracting.
The primary things I hope actually settle into my mind after this is the perfect example of external character development. Scrooge is truly affected by the things going around him, and his actions develop gradually, gaining momentum until the final wave of good will. The structure was tightly knit, and it’s always good to examine well-structured stories.
So there you have it, a writer’s examination of A Christmas Carol, 168 years late.