Elif Shafak: The politics of fiction
Listening to stories widens the imagination; telling them lets us leap over cultural walls, embrace different experiences, feel what others feel. Elif Shafak builds on this simple idea to argue that fiction can overcome identity politics.
The storytelling elements:
1. The Contract
In the very beginning, you have to make a promise. Will this be violent? Scary? Fun? Tense? Dramatic?
2. The Pull
Keep it light in the beginning. You don’t want to scare people away by being too dense — you must trust The Contract.
3. The Incident
This is the event that sets everything in motion. Should occur early and keep the story together.
4. The Reveal
Just before the Point Of No Return, the main character learns what the story is really about.
5. Point Of No Return
The forces of good are faced with an impossible decision that concerns fear, safety, love, hate, revenge or despair.
Sorry, but you must allow the the forces of evil to have an epic win.
7. All-Is-Lost Moment
The moment where all is lost. You must portray the deepest despair for the forces of good.
8. News Of Hope
This is the possibility for one of the side characters to shine. A light that shines into the total darkness of the moment.
The shit hits the fan and the good puts everything at stake and overcomes — despite impossible odds.
10. The End
Public displays of relief and happiness, love and forgiveness. It’s great! We also learn that the hero has evolved.
Article from Doktor Spinn written by Jerry Silfwer aka Doktor Spinn
In the first part of this series I discussed the need for a strong purpose behind a character’s goals. In this post I will be talking about competition and rivalry.
There are stories where characters are isolated or are in competition with themselves. These kinds of stories are hard to write and can easily come across as self-important and self-indulgent. Everything’s about him, nobody else counts, he has to do it all by himself.
That’s usually not the intention, but it’s hard not to come over like that if every sentence starts with the same subject.
However, once you bring in a rival to your main character, things not only become more dynamic, they also help the reader see the main character more clearly.
Brush up on your chemistry.
(More brain droppings from C on Palahniuk’s essay on thought verbs for Lit Reactor.)
I think that Palahniuk is discussing a writing exercise as well as a style choice in his essay, neither of which are gospel, but both of which are worth exploring. It might be slightly extreme to keep your character in the company of others at all times, but there is some rationale in that.
Characters on their own are in a sort of stasis. Often times, writers forget to include much action in a scene where a character is alone. Instead, the character will sit quietly in a bedroom or something and just think in exposition. This can be Boring with a capital “B”. Palahniuk argues that there must be a more action-oriented way to impart this same information to the reader.
Let’s see. Here’s an example of how to correct “Alone and Thinking” syndrome.
Ata stomped down the hallway to her bedroom and slammed the door behind her. She plopped down on her bed and grabbed a pillow to cuddle to her chest, thinking how her parents were complete dictators who had totally forgotten what it was like to be a teenager. This was important! This was so unfair! Ata wondered how she going to break it to Becky the next day at school.
becomes something like
Ata stomped down the hallway to her bedroom and slammed the door behind her. She plopped down on her bed, grabbed a pillow to cuddle to her chest, and called Becky.
The phone rang twice before Becky picked up. “Hello?”
"Becky, my parents are complete dictators!"
"Oh no!" Becky gasped, and Ata threw her pillow into her pile of dirty laundry.
"It’s like they’ve totally forgotten what it was like to be our age!”
"You said it was a done deal!"
Ata heard the accusatory note in Becky’s voice. She stood up and began to pace. “This is so unfair! They know how much this means to me!”
"Well, calm down," Becky said. "We need a plan B."
There is an argument to be made here in favor of the second (terrible) example. It moves along the plot. It gets characters interacting and strengthening their relationship in the reader’s eyes. It feels like more is happening, though the same information is being conveyed.
Furthermore, Palahniuk does not say that you can’t leave your characters alone (you can, by the way, as often as you like), just that he didn’t think it was the best idea if you were trying to purge thought verbs from your writing. And he even gave examples that seemed to concede that characters sometimes must be alone.
His point is to remove the thought verbs and let the characters’ actions convey their thoughts and emotions to the reader: ”Instead of characters knowing anything,” Palahniuk writes, “you must now present the details that allow the reader to know them. Instead of a character wanting something, you must now describe the thing so that the reader wants it.” (x)
As for your opinion that modern books are unrealistic for removing thought verbs, I would remind you that this is fiction writing, not a documentary. Fiction writers tell stories, sometimes stories that feel very true, but stories are not mere statements of fact lined up in chronological order. Stories are crafted; reality is not. Reality just happens. Stories require technique in their conveyance.
While in reality we might simply state “I feel” or “she thinks” or “he wonders”, in stories we must examine these states of being and relate them to our audience in not only an interesting way but in a way which is useful to our story and its telling.
We are the sole purveyors of our words. It is our responsibility to craft them well, to consciously strive to find our own balance between too much and not enough. That is style. That is storytelling.
Thank you for your question!
When you tell someone a story in person, you probably know the person you’re talking to. You will at least have a rough idea of how familiar they are with the people and places you’re referring to. And if you misjudge, they can always ask you questions.
In fiction, it’s much harder to know exactly how much information a reader needs or wants. And even if you did, it would be impossible to provide since you’ll have more than one reader, and each will have different requirements.
You can’t get the balance right, because there is no way to please everyone.
However, that doesn’t mean you can’t get it wrong. You may not be able to please all the people all the time, but you can certainly piss them all off.
Follow the link to get all the goodies.
littleawkwardwriter asked you:Do you have any tips for writing development? I have trouble putting in “filler” I just want to jump straight to the action! And then I don’t provide a clear enough background on the characters and it just gets messy.
Here’s why I don’t like the word “filler”: it’s filler.
Okay, here, let me explain. The term “filler” has this connotation of “unnecessary fluff”, or any scene that’s added in just for the sake of padding your important events. If you’re looking to add more filler, then you’re probably putting too much emphasis on the story arc over the character arcs.
Largely, most of the time, usually, a scene should do one of two things: develop the plot arc or develop a character arc.
- Plot Arc: the inciting incident, rising action, climax, and denouement of the story.
- Character Arc: the inciting incident, rising action, climax, and denouement of the character. More than one of these can exist in a story.
Character arcs happen within the story, which means your characters are developing at an arc separate from the plot. When an event takes place, it will ripple through the plot, but it will also ripple separately through your character(s).
This means that, while your story develops, your characters do, too.
In a sense, action is simply when stuff happens, which means development is action, and action should (largely, most of the time, usually) be happening without pause throughout your entire story. This is also why “aftermath” scenes should often be cut, because nothing furthers development in aftermath scenes (largely, most of the time, usually). Stephen King recommends you trim all the unnecessary fat of your story, which constitutes all unnecessary fluff, or anything that has zero development.
If you’re struggling with putting more of your characters in the story and making it interesting, think about these things:
- How is your story reflecting in your characters? Characters are reflections of real people, and when events happen, we tend to take them in and orient ourselves around what happened. That event becomes a part of us, influences the decisions we make, and changes us. How are the events of your story showing in your characters?
- Conversely, how are your characters reflecting the story? How are your characters’ decisions impacting what happens? How are they driving the plot? Think about how active their role is in regards to what’s happening, or how passive.
- What is your character like in the beginning, and how do they change by the end? How do they evolve and what triggers it throughout the story? How are you showing this?
- What characters stick with you and why? What are the most memorable characters in all of fiction for you? What makes them memorable?
Your plot is important, but action isn’t only when people are crossing swords or showing up for the court hearing or standing up in front of ten-thousand pairs of eyes. It’s what happens in-between, the stuff that brings us to these moments, the build or escalation, that only the characters can show us.
For more stuff on how to fatten your story, look at bulking up that word count and when a plot isn’t strong enough to make a whole story.
Hope that helps! Good luck!
As in a game, it is crucial we know what is to be gained or lost in the battle or during the journey. Literally, what is at stake? Life? Love? Money? A precious plot of land? The loyalty of an old friend? A wish? A curse? The whole world? Galaxy? Universe? All of time itself trapped in a magic snowglobe held in in the paws of a jaunty hedgehog? Further, what are the conditions of victory? What will mean loss? These don’t need to be perfectly clear (nor must they be correct), but both reader and character should be able to guess at them, even if the guess is wrong.
Urban Legends are a form of modern folklore that consists of stories that may or may not have been believed to be true by the storytellers. While the accuracy of these stories are not touched upon, it usually circulates and exhibits variation over time. They tend to carry significance within a community which leads the legend to be preserved.
Urban legends are sometimes repeated in a later time and in more recent stories. They are also distributed by e-mail or in other terms, chain letters. Most times the origin of an urban legend cannot be traced to a source and the tellers of these stories claim it has happened to a friend, or a friend of a friend.
Examples of Urban Legends:
Urban legends can also be known as urban myths, urban tales, or contemporary legends. Most sociologists and folklorists prefer the term contemporary legend due to the misconception that they originate in urban areas.