This is Really About Character / On Beginning
Honestly, I used to feel like I started with character because I heard a voice, even though it sounded remarkably like my own. And there’s that question always being leveled at us, what comes first, character or plot, as if these were the only possibilities. It felt like character came to me before plot. Except, not entirely before plot, and that got me thinking.
Writers Learn From Each Other / Continuously Writing
The first thing a beginning writer does is look at other people’s books, wondering if they can do the same thing. This approach leads to an assortment of strategies: looking at who is telling the story, where does the writer begin, how many pages do they spend telling this part and that part?
Location, Location, Location / This is About Conflict
Many writers set their stories in deeply familiar locales, even unchanging locales. Anne Tyler in Baltimore, Jack London in the frozen north (although he lived there for only a couple of years, making an argument for an intense experience being as valuable to a writer as a lengthy one), Bailey White’s characters live in a small town, Larry McMurtry’s are lost at sea in a changing environment.
Intermission / Getting Started with 12 Lines
If you’re a certain age, like under sixty, you may not know that movies once came with an intermission. A chance for youngsters to run out to the lobby and line up for popcorn and Milk Duds again. Old gals could put on a little lipstick, and old guys could ease their prostates.
Conflict is Nothing if Not Flexible / 4 Parts is Only a Compass
Where I asked, when was the last difficult encounter you can remember having with the family member you wrote about, what was your answer to what was it about? Categorize that answer in some generic way: who owns what and didn’t say they’d loan it; who is taking advantage of another’s good nature; who said they would and then didn’t, or vice versa
Step by Step with Structure: 4 Parts to a Narrative
One of the most helpful concepts I found in the agreement of several screenwriting books (that had nothing to say about archetypes) was this: three part structure. This is essentially three acts, and if you’re familiar, you know that the first act is roughly one quarter of the written text or story.