Number 101 — September 8, 2006
During my recent trip to South Carolina, I took part in a writer's discussion group consisting of self-published and unpublished authors. I happened to mention the word "perspective" two or three times, which led to a question seeking an explanation of my meaning. I was surprised when none of those present had considered how they might use the idea.
Two observers opposite each other look at the same object. A's position on the left allows him to see three sides of the suspended object. B's position on the right is such that he sees only the other three sides. When asked the color of the object, A will not only respond, "red," but perhaps would fervently defend his statement despite the fact he can only see fifty percent of the surfaces. If the other three surfaces are a different color, say green, then B could present an equally strenuous argument in favor of his observation. But they are both looking at the same object, or in the case of creative writing, at the same set of conditions or circumstances. Thus, what they see depends on the vantage point from which they observe it. This is perspective.
A negative result I have seen develop from the idea of letting characters speak for themselves is overwriting authorial comments as if the spoken words are so simplistic the author tends towards unnecessary enlightenment, sometimes in polysyllabic words or cute, but inappropriate, metaphors. (A recent one that came to my attention was a reference to "the bowels of the ocean.") This is like parents who, on hearing their child tell a story, feel compelled to offer an explanation in words the child would never use and probably wouldn't understand.
Number102 — September 15, 2006
Mr. Tobias' introductory paragraphs in 20 Master Plots and How to Build Them lead to this statement: " … (plot) is one of two strong forces—character being the other—that affects everything else in turn." He rejects the notion that plot is structure and substitutes: Plot is a process, not an object.
Mr. Tobias' purpose, which he accomplishes with flair, is to show how to develop plot in fiction and to apply it so the resulting story develops smoothly along the planned path to the desired end.
Number103 — September 22, 2006
Last week I quoted Ronald Tobias who divides plots into two broad general categories—Action and Character. This article defines those terms as I see them in the context of creative writing.
"A gross oversimplification," you say. Perhaps, but bear with me a moment while I explore the universality of my definitions. To do so, I ask you to consider your own behavior starting at this exact moment. I want you to keep reading this article until something else happens; let's suppose the telephone rings. Whether you realize it or not, you make a decision. You have several choices from simple to extreme: answer; not answer; ask somebody else to answer; disconnect the instrument; or ultimately cancel your telephone service and sue the company for disturbing your reading. So what do you do first? You make a DECISION and then you ACT.
Number104 — September 29, 2006
As I look back over two years of my articles on creative writing, I'm amazed how they developed and progressed. I began Article 1 inauspiciously with a few introductory words that launched my favorite topic; story planning through characterization. Today, I sit down to write my last article in this series, and I ask myself two questions:
It is not my right to answer the first. To respond to the second, I reread all the articles from beginning to end. I found some obvious space fillers, I suppose written when my muse was asleep and left me on my own. On the other hand, I found some stuff—I hesitate to grade my own work—that had some merit. In particular, I noted the following I judged to be of particular importance for further study:
My review revealed two omissions. I noted references to several books I found useful in my study, but found one significant exclusion. I did not mention Immediate Fiction — A Complete Writing Course by Jerry Cleaver. I cannot possibly rate books, but I can safely say here is one from which every author will benefit. Buy it, read it, and when finished, read it again. It's crammed with practical, no-nonsense statements and instruction. Mr. Cleaver is a writing instructor in Chicago. If ever you should happen to have the opportunity to attend his course and you do not grab it, you'll be sorry forever after.