Workshop: Pass the Shovel, It's Getting Deep Lesson One by Angelica Hart and Zi
It All Started the Day That I Died (Building a story)
For some fictional writing began early in life. They started with a crayon and mom's white linen tablecloth, where a bright and bold story emerged, followed by parental ooohs and ahhs, and then a very long time out.
Z: You were such a rascal. A: Well, at least I didn't use permanent marker on the countertop like some people I know. Z: How did you... A: (Grins mischievously) I know people...people know me...everyone knows you! Z: You're digressing. A: Ummm...sorry...back to the lesson.
Others start later in life, sometimes as teens, sometimes as retirees. It doesn't matter when you begin to write, it matters that you have a literary death to self accompanied by a rebirth of sorts, the beginning of a new imaginary life, one filled with adventure, realistic characters, new places, universes and worlds.
The key is to figure out what you want to write, and where to start. Some authors follow the yellow brick road, while others map out the yellow brick road. In other words there are those who go by the seat of their pants versus those who plot and plot and plot some more. We're not saying the former is wrong, but regardless of your technique, we believe that you should start with a basic plan. Putting one step in front of the other isn't just the words to a song, but a good solid way to build a story.
Z: (Starts whistling the soundtrack to the song) A: (Forms a shushing motion) Z: (Ignores her)
To quote Catwoman, "It all started the day that I died." This is a great opening for a story, for you start asking questions. You can't help wondering how she died, and how could a dead woman tell a story, and just what is her story. Readers want to know. In order to get readers to ask questions that will keep them up reading until the wee hours, you should consider the following questions:
What's my idea?
Without an idea, there is no foundation, and the idea has to have some solidity to it. Our idea for KILLER DOLLS was terrorist aiming their assault toward children by stuffing ricen into the heroine's handmade dolls. That gave us enough to build on, and start asking more questions.
Where does my story take place?
This sets the tone and mood of the story, an old dilapidated Victorian mansion gives one connotation while a skyscraper gives another and a space station quite another.
When does my story take place?
You need to establish a time period. Is your story contemporary, historical, a few years back, a few years forward, etc.
What is my timeline?
If you leave this to chance, you might find yourself a hundred pages into a story and still be on the first day of the story. This is great if that was your plan, but if you're writing a generational novel, you're in trrrrrrroooooouubbble!
Why is this happening?
There are only so many ideas and stories out there that can be told, you need to know your particular bent or twist that will make your story stand apart from all the others.
What's my point of view?
You need to know who will be telling the story. First, decide if it is in first person, third person, objective, or omniscient and then decide if it is multi-perception or told by just one character. Even if told in first person, you can switch POV by placing a character's name at the beginning of a scene.
Who are my characters?
Protagonist – main character(s)
Antagonist – villain(s)
Secondary characters – (all others)
At this point you don't need to know the fine points of your character, or even their name, but you do need to have a sense of them, male or female, strong or weak, their impact on the story.
How will I begin my story?
The beginning Introduces the protagonist/s and tells the reason the story.
What is my plot?
This is the basic structure of the story. For example, boy meets girl, girl hates boy, boy doesn't give up, girl begins to respond, her dog bites boy, boy sues, and then falls in love with his lawyer and drops the girl and the lawsuit, girl opens a kennel for wayward dogs, and they all live happily ever after.
What is my complication?
The wrench in the story. It is what moves the story along and aids the plot. Like nails in a coffin. The corpse might pop out if ya don't nail the lid down.
What is my climax? (Zi considers cracking a joke. Angelia gives him a daunting look)
The climax is the point of the story where everything comes together. This is it, the moment when Indiana Jones picks up the Holy Grail while the Gestapo stands by to claim it , when Scarlett realizes she's in love with Rhett and he already walked out the door, when Dorothy presents the witch's broom to the Wizard and he says come back later. It's not the conclusion. It's not the end. It's the high point, and the point when the protagonist could lose it all.
What is my resolution and anticlimax?
This is when the main character/s solve the problem and the story winds down. It comes quickly after the climax and you must resolve all the issues, untie the knots , bring home the bacon, put away the horse, bring in the hay....
Z: But I was on a roll.
A: You were making a regular ole hoagie on a roll.
Z: Speaking of which, hungry?
A: Time to say good night Gracie?
Z: Like anyone really remembers that old joke.
Z: Night Gracie. (Grins)
As for homework...you know what you need to do. Whatever you put into this is what you'll get out. It's all up to you. However, and this is not mandatory, but if you'd wish to do a homework assignment start thinking about what you want to write. What is your story? Use the above lessons and tells us your idea.
If you have any questions or wish to send us your assignment, write us at firstname.lastname@example.org with lesson one in the subject line.
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