12. What I’ve learnt

The short story of vengeful Felicity is now complete and what a piece of work she turned out to be. In the previous blogs I tried a variety of techniques gleaned from creative writing books. Now I can conclude how useful, or not, they were to me over the course of writing the story.

PREMISE

Theory says everything should be related to proving the premise, else it shouldn’t be there. Well, I found the premise ‘Murderous revenge leads to peace of mind’. The first part was derived easily from the inciting incident where Felicity goes way over the top in reacting to Jonas’s poor behaviour towards her. The peace of mind’ came to me only when I found the good ending for the story, after the first draft. I can’t say that the premise felt helpful to me except maybe on a subconscious level that there was something meaningful to the story, buried in there, a sort of life lesson. In conclusion the jury is out regarding premise, but as it not a big consumer of my time I’ll stick with it for the next story.

THE 6 STEP FORMULA

This came from an article in ‘Writing magazine’, to which I subscribe. To reiterate: step 1, Protagonist has a problem. Step 2 the problem gets worse and the opposition is introduced, Step 3, Protagonist reacts to the problem. Step 4, all his/her efforts are met with disaster. Step 5, Another reaction. Step 6, resolution one way or another. Then start the story at step 3 and fill in steps 1 and 2 as backstory after step 4. For me this worked like a charm for two reasons. Firstly steps 3 and 4 used up 1500 words, or so, to do them justice. I think it would be difficult to write a high octane scene with plenty of tension in fewer words. So by confining steps 1 and 2 to the backstory the formula hits on the right amount of words to hit the short story word count. One is not trying to cover too much ground. The second reason I am in favour of this formula is that you save time by not having to actually write steps 1 and 2. All that is needed is to jot down what has happened on an index card , you can then refer to it for what is driving current events as you go along. I’ll be sticking with the formula for my next short story.

TREATMENT

I wrote a treatment for the story before I started. It told what was happening and included relevant dialogue and eventually ended up as long as the story itself. As I wrote it; I felt I had to include all the little nuggets of information about plot, character, and setting that were jumping into my consciousness in case they were gone forever. Well hardly any of it found its way in to the finished story, and I think I know why. I wrote the treatment well before I wrote the first draft, maybe weeks apart. What I was feeling, the mood I was in, was different when I sat down to write the story from when I sat down to write the treatment. I couldn’t recapture that same mood and feeling it belonged to a previous time, and one can only write with the feeling they are currently experiencing. Hence I’ve concluded that I won’t write a treatment for the next story. A few brief notes on the goal and conflict of the scene jotted onto an index card will suffice. I will just have that as my point of reference as I write the scene as it plays out in my mind on the day

WRITE IT WITH FEELING

I think this was the most valuable lesson I learnt from the story. The most important thing is what the characters are feeling because this is what you want the reader to be feeling. So first of all write as if you are the character, feel the emotions they are feeling. Afterwards you can be the critical about grammar or word choice, they are trivial by comparison to the feelings in the story. The same goes for information that the reader will need to make sense of the story, again this can be added later. So, write it with FEELING first.

CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT

I still feel I’ve got some way to go In this area. I’ve yet to create a character that is truly memorable to me and if it happens I will see it as considerable step forward for me as a writer. Something I found useful, was to have a actual pictures of the people In the story. A while ago I cropped a lot of pictures of all sorts of people out of magazines. These were all pictures of strangers so I had no idea of their personality or even their name so they are a canvas that I can do what l want with.

 

In conclusion the next short story, there will be less detailed planning, less writing of unnecessary scenes and  more character development and maybe I’ll stumble over the benefits of the premise.

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