|The author, Dane F. Baylis|
Today marks a milestone in the life of this blog and my present stage as a writer. For a project that first saw daylight last October, and only had a handful of posts until January 10th this year when I accepted Kharysma Rhayne's "365 Days of Blogging" challenge, today is sweet. In the last twenty-four hours this endeavor has passed 10,000 views. I owe a world of thanks to all of you who have made this possible. Those of you who have stuck around, those of you who stopped by to visit, and especially those of you who have added your very unique voices to these pages from time to time. None of it happens without you!
Hands together in gassho,
Once in a while I come across one of those books that just pulls so many things together. Jeff Bridges' and Ernie Glassman's, THE DUDE AND THE ZEN MASTER, is one of those. It speaks to life, living, parenting, creativity and so much more in a way that is witty, thoughtful and further reaching than I expected. If you haven't yet, I recommend you acquire it. It is something I will refer to frequently.
NOW, ON WITH THE SHOW!
Yes, There Are More Questions In This Universe Than We Have Ready Answers For. (Did I Say It Was Going To Be Easy?)
So far we've asked questions of ourselves to try and prime the creative pump and generate ideas. Then we asked questions of those ideas. We asked what kind of conflict(s) we wanted to introduce for our characters to overcome. But that is only the beginning.
Now we come to the question that is at the heart of any story, despite its length, tone, or genre. "What happens?" Not just the simple 'what', as in, "John Doe got up. He ate breakfast. On his way out the front door, he stopped to check the mail and found a dead rat in the letter box." These are just the story coming together. This is what we dress our ideas in to turn them into a fictional narrative.
When we ask, "What happens?", we are posing the (drum roll please) MAJOR DRAMATIC QUESTION. Will our hero succeed in his quest? Or will he end up worm food on some forgotten battlefield? Does the girl get the promotion, marry the boss, inherit everything and go on to establish world peace? Does little Johnny finally graduate high school at the tender age of thirty-two? The MDQ represents what goes on in that space between the statement of the problem and the resolution. It points to a story's defining event. The climax.
Because we are talking mostly about short fiction, we are also talking precision. There isn't the breadth to go wandering about, you need to write more specifically and with a real sense of direction so that you know what has to happen at the climax. The clearer your image is of all this, the tighter and more dramatic your writing will be.
Remember, I said there were questions? Here are the things you will NEED to consider:
* What, if anything, does my character want?
* What action does he or she take to get what he or she desires?
*What, if anything, keeps my character from getting what he or she wants?
*Who succeeds? Who fails?
Once you've asked the MDQ you get to answer it. This is the resolution. Not every story ends, "...and they all lived happily ever after." Check out some of Joyce Carol Oates' work or Ernest Hemingway's short fiction. The way YOU choose to answer the central conflict of a story will determine how it unfolds, but it will also shape the change in the character that is central to whether or not we care about him or her. Ultimately, it shapes the theme you present.
So, are we done with the questions? Not quite, but that's for later. For right now take a look at what we've shared over the last couple of days. Does it seem like it will work for you in your short fiction? Will it work in your longer projects? Do you see how this can help us escape the formulaic?
Meanwhile...live, love, write.
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Dane F. Baylis