Creative and Memoir Writing Class scheduled for Oct. 12, 2022

And taught by Carol Brennan King

Recently, we have talked about plot, otherwise known as the storyline or sequence or series of events of that happens in our story.

We also talked about how the scenes or the mini-stories function as links in the larger story. Like any story, the scene, although it may be part of a larger one, also is a story. Therefore, the scene also must have a beginning, middle, and end. In addition, like any story, the scene must have an arc that shows how the character engages with a challenge or challenges that causes change in the character.

Remember, it is possible for a story to unfold in one scene, all the action occurring in one place. However, most longer works have many scenes.

Here is a scene. Spend some time thinking about where it might be and what might be happening. First, everything for your story is here in this scene. Now, write the scene that is the story.

Who might the scene be about? Where is this? Who is the center of this photo for your story’s meaning? Is it the impatient man waiting? Is it the woman entering the scene unaware of some drama that has taken place while she was somewhere else? Is it someone who can see this scene and needs the help of the emergency people? Is the Parking sign relevant? Just give yourself up to 20 minutes of daydreaming to see what comes up.

Finally, we talked about chapters. A chapter may have many scenes, or it may have only one. A story or book with many shorter chapters tends to have a quicker pace, the shorter chapters themselves, with good writing, pull the reader along.

In general, twenty-five percent of the story is the beginning: the setting and introduction of characters in action. The middle of the story occupies fifty percent of the book. This is where the story peaks but does not end. The final quarter of the work is the end, the resolution of the crisis and the characters’ responses to it.

  1. This next week, we are moving in closer to look at character. Remember, without a well-written character, we have no story.

I suggest you keep a section of a notebook or a file on your computer for each character. This will prevent a lot of mistakes later on. I also like to use my whiteboard for this exercise with the main characters’ appearance, birthdate, marital status, children, education, and any other details that might affect the outcome.

Then, what do you know about the character you are focusing on for this exercise: his or her place in history or life? Do they have a position of influence? Are they bound by their place in the culture of the community where the action occurs? Or have they been influenced by the events that impinged on life before the story opens?

And since we are talking about characters, what kind of character or inner life do they manifest? Are they born leaders, born followers, learners, or teachers …influencers?

  • Consider what relationships matter or have been key to who the character(s) have grown to be? And you must identify the people who matter to them and why, so you can use that in your narrative. Write them in your notebook or file, so you can be consistent throughout.
  • Because your character is going to face challenges, what are his or her blind spots or weaknesses? This is very important as you write those scenes, so figure it out early on.
  •  We talked about the inner life a minute or so ago. How does that inner life affect the character’s, or characters’, behavior – how does it show up in their actions? Research has shown us that abused people may repeat that abuse on others. Not all, but there is a connection often. People who have seen violence in the home may grow up thinking it is the norm and adopt that behavior themselves. Some people retreat into illness, not consciously, but when they don’t have the words to ask for help, their body might, by failing them. Spend some time thinking about that and writing it down. Nobody should know your character better than you do.
  • Then, think through how your character is unique. You will bore your audience very quickly if you have the same old, same old character, a carbon copy of every other man or woman in that world. When you give your character some idiosyncrasies, you immediately make them more interesting…if what you have done has also still made them believable. Maybe make her a red-head since only 1 or 2 percent of the population has red hair. Give him a limp, her a scar, him a height advantage, her the strength of a weightlifter. You get the idea. When someone says the character’s name, what comes instantly to your mind and to that of your audience?

So this week, start a page or two on your protagonist and your antagonist. In the process, think what it is about both of them that might ignite the conflict in the first chapter and then might keep things hot until the end.

You might use columns:

Jack                                                                David

Intelligent                                                     Intelligent, not as smart as Jack

Doesn’t show off his smarts                    Wants people to think he is smarter

Physically strong                                         Plays chess

Tends to be quiet                                       Likes the limelight

Unless it is necessary                                 even when he gets there on thin ice

Or, think through this scene. Where is the character? Use your imagination freely. With this one scene, what story could you write?

If you are in my class, bring along your first or second draft of the story that comes to you as you meditate on this scene. Hint: Is it possible that your character is not in the scene?

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