How many of you, I wonder, challenged yourselves to put something into words? If you did I hope it freed you and was a help to you in some way.
Last month I promised to show how story writing can help organisational skills. Here’s how:
Beginning, Middle and End
Diaries and journals have a “yesterday – today – tomorrow” flow to them. It’s natural. Stories, on the other hand, need to have their beginning chosen. Even if we want to retell something true as fiction, the question has to be asked: “Where did it all start?” Answering and getting our story going therefore requires memory (long-term, usually) and thought.
From then on the questions come in a mix-up that needs sorting: “What happened then?” “What led this person to behave that way?” “Could it have gone differently?” “If something had happened earlier, would it have changed the outcome?” Answering and sorting out the order of all the events and explanations forms the middle.
Endings almost write themselves in a way. Some plots within our stories will have a one way conclusion. And this can also be true of some of our characters. Those who we find reasons to change their minds, become tougher or more relaxed about things, may resolve their adventures in ways they (and we as writers) would not have thought of at the beginning.
All the above is about a true story, even if it’s told as though it’s fiction. What if it’s all a fiction and we are making it up from scratch? It can be as complicated and as much fun as you like.
Themes, Characters and Genres
By “theme”, I mean topic – an emotional or philosophical one. For example, our story might be our way of figuring out what makes people brave. Or exploring what the world might be like without money.
Obviously, we all know what characters are. But who do we want our characters to be? A few months ago, I introduced you to the Drama Triangle. The Perils of Penelope Pitstop is a good example of this. It has a persecutor (the Hooded Claw), victim (Penelope), and rescuers (the Ant Hill Mob). And then there are our lesser characters playing their part.
Characters can represent things too. For example, in mythology, the Viking god of storms, Thor, is often shown as quick-tempered and sometimes moody and unpredictable – just like lightening and thunder.
“Genre” is just a posh word for story type – Romance, Comedy, Adventure… Genres can be helpful. If we are exploring bravery, Fantasy might be a really good choice. Think about it. Game of Thrones, The Hobbit, even The Wizzard of Oz all explore bravery. If we think of imagining a world with no money, how about making our story a futuristic Science Fiction story? Or maybe a satirical farce?
Having said all the above, it might be that all we really want to do is tell a good yarn. We have no need to write anything complicated. We just want to tell a simple joke with a few added descriptions about the places and people involved to make it more interesting, more memorable, perhaps.
Perfect. The joke becomes a story. But complicated or simple, there is always a structure and our thinking behind it. And on that note, I’ll leave you with a link to two of my comedy heroes. Haurel & Hardy in “County Hospital”.
Until next month. Take care,