Posts Tagged ‘Fiction’

When A Story Starts

January 11th, 2017 • by Karen A. Chase • No Comments

once_upon_a_time_lccn98518274A dear friend of mine was struggling to choose when to begin her novel. Not when to begin writing, but when, in the timeline of her protagonist’s struggle, her story should begin.

One method we discussed was outlined in Syd Field’s book, Screenplay, The Foundations of Screen Writing. If the chronological timeline of a story are points along a line, numbered 1 through 10, we can begin with a glimpse of number 9 (the denouement), and then return to number 1 and write the rest in order. In All Is Lost we first see Robert Redford drifting in despair without his sailboat, then we are taken back and shown everything preceding it. The result? We know what’s coming before the protagonist does, but neither of us knows if by number 10 he will sink or swim, so we stick around to find out.

In a book I recently picked up, Wired For Story, the author Lisa Cron discusses the importance of starting your novel or script for the greatest neurological impact. Humans (readers) are hard-wired to hear/need stories. When tales begin, we want to be drawn in to know whose story it is, what’s happening, and what’s a stake. In Albert Camus’, The Stranger, this is accomplished with just three words. “Mother died today.” The child will be somehow affected by a death. I want to read on.

And that, my fellow writers, is the goal that ultimately my friend and I agreed upon. We strive to begin our books so it increases our readers’ curiosity to such a pitch they must keep reading.

There are countless articles that share countless ways on when and how to begin, (this one from Writer’s Digest illustrates 10 Ways to Begin). When or where have you decided to begin?

A Case for Fiction

November 17th, 2016 • by Karen A. Chase • 2 Comments
Fishing For Frogs, 1882. Oil on canvas painting by William Adolphe Bouguereau via Wikimedia Commons.

Togetherness. Fishing For Frogs, 1882. Oil on canvas painting by William Adolphe Bouguereau via Wikimedia Commons.

It has been difficult to know what to write here this last week or so, as an author, and regardless of political preferences. But one thing has been made abundantly clear to me.

We need more fiction.

Especially thoughtful, deep, well-researched and so-worth-pondering fiction. We need it more than ever for three reasons.

Escape. Sometimes the world seems topsy-turvy. Either we’re getting what we want, and no one else seems happy, or what we’ve lost makes us rethink everything we thought was true. Fiction can give us a break–a means to flee to another time in history, or to a utopian or more dystopian future. Inside of that “other” place we’re able to find something else.

Empathy. No matter when or where fiction is set, all great fiction is focused on the characters. Some we will love. Some, not so much. And yet all of them, if well-drawn, illustrate how humanity is complex. People are flawed. And yet, by seeing intimately into someone else’s life, even the worst antagonist might elicit compassion from us. Sometimes pity. Either way, the result is something greater.

Enlightenment. It sounds incongruent, but the goal of great fiction writers is to write the truth. The truth, however dark, beautiful, crushing, sad, joyful, odd, funny, or head-spinning. Do we weave in opinions? Of course, but how can we obtain enlightenment without them? It is only in the absence of listening to and attempting to understand a dissenting opinion that we recede into darkness.

So please, regardless of where you are these days, take a deep breath. Go to your favorite bookstore or library. Read fiction. Write fiction. And by all means, share fiction. Through a thoughtful exchange of words, perhaps we can all heal together.

Not sure where to begin? Pick a book, any book, from this list of Time Magazine’s Best 100 All-Time Novels on Goodreads.

Supporting Characters

February 19th, 2016 • by Karen A. Chase • No Comments

George_Gaynes_1964

This week legendary character actor George Gaynes passed away. Despite his handsome looks and rumbling voice, despite dozens of plays and films, he was never really considered leading man material. Instead he was most known for supporting roles, like that of the photographer/building manager on Punky Brewster.

But I see high value in such roles. Like Samwise in Lord of the Rings, secondary characters sometimes give us a glimpse into what the main character, who is often wallowing around in the quagmire of becoming, might actually become. We needed the kind, wise mentor of Gaynes’ Henry, to believe that Punky Brewster might also grow up to be kind after being orphaned.

Writer’s Digest has a great article on how to write sizzling secondary characters. Primarily though, it comes down to writing supporting characters who, through their own journeys, help us and our protagonists reach a believable end.

I suspect Dustin Hoffman would not have been as convincing as a woman in Tootsie, had it not be for George Gaynes’ character so believably coming on to him as a “her.”

So thanks for the great character work, George. Thanks for the memories, and the laughs. You can see George Gaynes in this Tootsie original trailer around :40.