Most readers know Joyce modelled Ulysses on The Odyssey – lesser known is that he based each section on an organ in the body. It’s irrelevant to your enjoyment of the novel, but it helped him structure his work. I’m a structuralist – I can’t work without parameters. It’s why formats like screenplays appeal to me, and why I self-impose restrictions like an album of one minute songs.
L’Assassiner de Faux Faux Amis is similar – an opportunity to work within (and against) the tropes of the murder mystery genre. Still, it didn’t gel until I overlaid another level of structure. In this case, the perfect through-line for a show about death was the five stages of grief. Each stage became an act heading, and gave me a framework (and confidence) I wouldn’t have had otherwise. Many of them only influence the narrative laterally (‘Part 4 – Depression’ incorporates a blues song), but I found them handy to guide the progression and choose the right place for each reveal in the story. The audience never see this scaffolding, or at least that was my intention – Faux Faux Amis think it might be neat to screen them like silent movie title cards behind the performance.
I’m working on my first (non-musical) play right now, and I’m this close to nutting out the structure, to finding the right model with which to box myself in. Once I have that, I can take my piles of notes and start seeing what fits and what doesn’t.