“You enter the extraordinary by way of the ordinary.” ~Frederick Buechner
Thursday, November 24, 2016
Overview Character Development: Story Question Part One
Workshop: An Introduction to Writing for Children and Young Adults
“Stories help us see what is true, and that visions of truth are
nourishing to the human spirit.” Katherine
As mentioned last week a story grows from the
character’s emotional core. What? Why?
Dwight V. Swain says a story is a succession
of motivations and reactions. Every story deals with specific instance. Even
sci-fi and fantasy are grounded in concrete realistic details.
An issue or stumble is not the event itself
but how the character perceives and reacts to it will direct the degree of
value to it. The character makes his own judgment and does this based on his
For example, a single fact can cause a
multitude of reactions such as a late BART or freeway delay. What are some personal
reactions being experienced? By the adult driving? By a child passenger? How
much of their emotional focus is tied up into where they are going, or a
situation left unresolved earlier that day that one or the other fear the delay
will be used to discuss the unfinished conversation?
For the story to work the reader has to care
about the character and care if he succeeds or fails or at least identify with
his need to succeed or fail. Therefore the reader identifies with the
character’s feelings and struggles.
Because something happens as in a previous
event #1, therefore Event #2 follows=cause and effect.
becomes motivating stimulus.
the character reaction.
The reaction contains three components:
feeling—action—speech. Sometimes one of them is implied rather than stated
Take some of the motivational sentences
you’ve been working on since the segment on tone and expand them according to a
deeper cause and effect that reflects and responds to your characters’ background.
Here is an
extended motivational two-sentence structure from Dwight V. Swain.
a) The first sentence is a statement that establishes, character, situation and
humans suddenly begin to grow to twelve feet height, John Storm tries to find
second sentence asks a question while identifying the opponent and disaster.
“But can hedefeat the traitors in
high places who want to kill him in order to make the change appear to be the
result of an extra terrestrial plot?"
As you work up your story questions, themes,
direction, and characters this form may become more succinct, but for now it’s
a good start towards creative possibilities.
Examine Possible Conflict
There are two dogs but only one bone.
Examine many possible layers of motivation. Keep
asking ‘what if’ questions to find the depth of motivation, both external and
to write up potential story lines.
wanted to get a job at the ballet.
Then list twenty things that could go wrong.
Include creative offbeat possibilities.
Put your character between a rock and a hard
place, says Ronald B. Tobias. Forget easy solutions.
It applies from the youngest reader up. One
of my youngest grandson’s favorite books is Dinosaur
vs. Bedtime by Bob Shea. As you can see the story question/conflict is in
the title. The little dinosaur battles a pile of leaves and a bowl of
spaghetti, a big slide and talking grown-ups, J and many
other daily conflicts. And with every encounter he WINS! Except… guess what?
1.Practice reading openings or
titles. Notice what details jump first.
2.As you read stories beginnings
write down what you think the story question is. See if it gets answered.
3.Write down your possible story
idea in the question form.
4.List twenty possible
obstacles—include really crazy ones.
5.Write up in two as in
two-sentence structure from Swain.
look at the back cover or market introduction—does it fulfill its promise re
Share: What was the funniest obstacle you
I am an author, a freelance content editor, a writing workshop instructor, and a writing coach. I write fiction novels and short stories, and nonfiction reflective journals, workshops and poetry. I am an avid reader, an occasional knitter and love to watch the ocean or see a good movie.
Albert Einstein said, “When I examine myself and my methods of thought, I come to the conclusion that the gift of fantasy has meant more to me than my talent for absorbing knowledge.” Einstein called his imagination “a holy curiosity.
As readers and movie buffs we enjoy the drama and universal feelings of love, revenge, greed, hope. “When the shoe fits”, we can tap into these versions, add our own imagination, and enrich our own stories. We begin to identify metaphors for ourselves, our characters and our readers and become more attuned to feelings and beliefs. We often find emotional heritage—our touchstones—in our personal history, literature, scripture, folk-tales, songs and culture.
Jane Yolen says, “Folklore reflects the society that creates it. Modern art tales…. take on this mirroring quality, too.” According to Roland Hein, G.K. Chesterton believed that everyday life is permeated with mythic qualities. “One must have the eyes and the ears to see.”
So in Mythic Impact we will open our ears and eyes to a holy curiosity, building bridges through chaos and confusion, to search out illuminations.