Practical Writing / Story Telling 03byThe Avenger©
How to start writing:
Unless you are very experienced, just sitting and banging away at your computer is like jumping into your car and simply driving without a destination and a map. I know of several experienced, successful Authors that make notes and build the skeleton of their story before they finally sit down and write.
When I write professionally (which does not include my Lit postings) I use a method I call "The hunter and gatherer Method."
Basically, I make several lists which help me hunt and gather ideas.
To reiterate, a dramatic story with a classical structure is about
"A protagonist who tries to get something which he/she desperately needs that is very difficult to get and succeeds/ fails." This will now be referred to as our lead sentence.
Obviously, people decide to write a story for several different reasons. It could be you read something in the paper, about a person or people who did this and that, or you have experiences or fantasies you want to share, or you are asked to write a story on a particular subject (for money, if you are lucky). It is enough if you have a rough idea of what you want to write about.
Your first step is to choose the story you want to write:
Choosing your story:
Any story which involves more than one person can be told from several different perspectives and angles. You can have several characters who play an important role in a story, but in order to make it dramatic, you have to tell the story of only one of them. That one character is the one you chose to be your protagonist. Several factors play a role in choosing your story and your protagonist.
You might choose the character whose perspective you know best, or the one you think your target audience can identify or sympathize with most.
I will use a concrete example: Lets say you would like to tell the story of a housewife who cheats on her husband with her gardener. There are at least three different angles here. You can tell the story from the wife's angle, or the husband's or the gardener's.
The wife's angle is that of a woman who cheats on her husband and betrays him. The husband's is that of a man who is betrayed by his wife. The gardener's is that of a man who seduces another man's woman.
Now, we will go deeper into the possible angles. Remember, we want to put our story in the form of the lead sentence, which is
"A protagonist tries to get something which he/she desperately needs that is very difficult to get and succeeds/ fails."
The Housewife's Stories:
If we want to make the housewife our protagonist, we must look for angles where she actively wants something that is hard to get. If she just wants the gardener's big cock and gets it, just like that, and the husband comes home and immediately says, "Oh, it really turns me on to see you with another man," such a story has no tension and suspense. However, we could try the following angles....
-She could be a woman who is greatly tempted into having sex or an affair with her sexy gardener, but she abhors infidelity and wants to be faithful and loyal to her husband.
-Or the gardener could have some kind of power over her and is trying to force her into having sex or an affair against her will.
-or she could be a woman who wants to seduce her handsome, young gardener, but he does not want her, for some reason.
-or she could be having a secret affair with her gardener and wants to keep this a secret from her husband, who is getting suspicious, and would destroy her if he found out.
-Or she could be having a fling with her gardener, with no intention of getting divorced, but the gardener now he wants her to break up with her husband and is putting pressure on her.
The Husband's Angle:
If we want the husband as our protagonist, what angle could we use so that he actively wants something which is difficult to get?
-He could suspect that the gardener is after his wife, and he wants to make sure that the guy does not get her. Therefore, he is a man fighting to keep his woman.
-Or, he could suspect that his wife might be cheating, and wants to find out the truth, in other words, he wants to set a trap to catch the cheating wife and gardener.
-Or he could be a man who wants to test his wife's fidelity and hires and pays a young, attractive gardener to try and seduce her.
-or he could discover that his wife is cheating and tries to get revenge on both.
Note: In all examples, he actively wants something. He doesn't just suddenly find out his wife is cheating and that's it.
The Gardener's Stories:
If we take the gardener as our protagonist, what angle can we take where he is actively trying to get something?
-He could be a young man trying to seduce an attractive, married woman who does not want to cheat.
-Or he could be a man who has fallen in love with a married woman and wants to convince her to leave her husband for him.
-Or he could be trying to keep his affair with her secret from her husband, who is getting suspicious and would destroy him if he found out.
-or he could be a young man who is being forced into sex or an affair by a rich, powerful, elder woman against his will, and is trying to get out of it but she wont let him go.
Choosing your Protagonist:
If you are new to writing, I would suggest you tell the story from the perspective of a character you understand and know best (your gender, social status, age, race and so forth).
It is not advisable to make your protagonist a type of person that you do not know or understand. Lets say you are a man who has no idea how housewives think, then do not try to tell her story, unless you are prepared to invest lots of time in research, or you might earn one of those comments one often reads, like, "Author is obviously a man who has no idea how women think."
Then do what I did above. Make a list of the possible angles and stories you can tell from your protagonist's point of view. Choose the one you find most interesting, and then start developing it.
NOTE: If say, you want to tell the wife's story, but you would also like to give your readers an insight into the feelings and actions of the husband and the gardener, you then incorporate these into your story as sub plots. However, that comes after you have developed your main story, and we will look at that later.
Step by Step Plot Development:
For the purpose of this exercise, I will take the housewife as my protagonist. And from her possible stories, I will take the first as my story.
I will put this in the form of our lead sentence,
"A protagonist tries to get something which he/she desperately needs that is very difficult to get and succeeds/ fails."
Therefore, my story is about "A housewife who wants to be faithful to her husband, but she is greatly tempted by her gardener, and fails."
Therefore, in my story, my protagonist, the housewife will try to resist the temptation of her gardener and end up giving in to him.
The reader does not have to know all this from the first page, but I as an Author, must know all these things before I start writing. Contrary to what some Authors like to believe, a writer does not write and let the story take him somewhere. If you do so, you will end up waffling and meandering about aimlessly. You have to be in control of your story. You take the story where you want it to go, not the other way around.
Now, I will start developing my story.
THE BEGINNING (ACT 1):
I will now establish the setting of my story, the main character/protagonist, her need and why it is difficult to get. In other words, THE WHO, THE WHAT and THE WHY.
What kind of a person could she be?
-Physical attributes (I would suggest the type of woman that you find attractive. It is easy to sell the type of woman you find attractive. Though most writers always opt for this, It is so boring to always read about tall, slim blond women with big tits)
Character? (make a list of several different types of female characters that you know, but don't make it too detailed as yet)
-is she a typical housewife?
-or a sophisticated, rich lady?
-a spoilt, selfish snob?
-a learned lady?
-is she confident, vocal, bossy.
-optimistic, good natured..
-how long has she been married?
-does she have children?
Where does she live? What is the social attitude towards infidelity amongst the people that she is around? (Note: towards infidelity, because that is the theme of my story, not towards Michael Jordan or the war in Iraqi. If our story were about a gay or lesbian relationship, we would want to know how homosexuality is viewed in her social circles. If it were about an IR relationship, we would want to know about the racism or lack thereof in her social circles)
-does she have swingers for friends
-does she live in a society of holly rollers who would like to stone cheats?
-does she live in a big city?
-or a small town where everybody knows everybody and everything done in the dark quickly comes to light, especially cheating?
-does she have curious neighbors who are always observing her?
Her MOTIVATION. THE WHY:
Now, I have to establish why she has a need to stay faithful to her husband? Think of all the reasons she could have for not wanting to cheat on her husband and list them.
-does she love him very much and cannot imagine having sex with any other man?
-is she afraid that if she cheats, she can break up her family, which is the most important thing for her?
-is she very religious and does not want to cheat because she thinks its a mortal sin?
-does she think people who cheat are despicable?
-does she have a friend who cheated and lost everything?
-does she find the gardener attractive, but thinks he is below her in social status, or too young, or has the wrong race?
Now, we need to answer the question, "Why is it difficult for her to achieve her aim not to cheat?" Make a list of possible reasons why a woman might find it difficult not to cheat.
-is she lonely and frustrated because her husband is too busy with work, or has started to ignore her after several years of marriage and she cant stand it anymore?
-has she only had one sexual partner in life, her husband, and is very curious about having sex with another man, like the gardener?
-is her sex life boring and she wants more than she can get from her husband?
-does she have friends who are all cheating on their husbands with their gardeners and having great fun and she feels like she is missing out on something?
-does she not find her husband attractive as a sexual partner?
-is her husband someone absorbed is his work or sports and has no time for his wife and takes her for granted??
-is her husband a cold character who shows his wife no emotions?
-is her husband physically impaired and therefore he cant have sex?
-is he a man who fantasizes of seeing his wife making love to another man and is pushing her towards having sex with the gardener?
-is the gardener much more handsome and sexier than her husband? (maybe so much so that she constantly admires his body from behind the curtains whilst he is working in the garden)
-is the gardener very charming? (maybe he is always making her compliments, whereas her husband doesn't)
-is the gardener blackmailing her?
-is the gardener dominating her and has the power to bend her will (maybe she is a weak person)?
-does he share similar interests with her, which results in them feeling very close and attracted to one another.
-is he of an age, nationality or race that she has always felt attracted to?
SETTING THE STORY OFF:
Now, we need to set off our story. Obviously, something has to happen, which puts her in a conflict situation. If she just feels attracted to the gardener, but he does not make an attempt to get intimate with her, she wont have a problem and aim. So what could this something be?
-do they chat over several glasses of wine and end up kissing (and maybe having sex)?
-does he hurt himself and she washes and bandages his hand, sparks fly between them and they end up kissing (and maybe having sex)?
-does he oil her back at the pool side and her body starts responding?
-does she catch him leering at her (again) and then he approaches her and kisses her?
-does she flirt harmlessly with him as usual, but this time things get out of hand?
-is she upset with her husband and seeks revenge by sleeping with her gardener?
-is she curious to have sex with him, and decides to have a one off fling after which she intends to stop things?
-are her senses and judgment temporarily impaired and she is taken advantage of, for example he could get her drunk or high and then they have sex, and when she is sober again, she does not want to continue?
Or, does her gardener
-approach her with some information that can harm her or her husband if exposed and blackmails her with it?
-does he threaten to harm her or her husband and family physically?
-does he try to simply overpower her with his stronger body or mind?
-does she desperately need his help with something and he says he will only help her if she agrees to have sex with him?
-is she very close to him (maybe he is her only friend) and he says unless she gives in to him, he will quit his job and she will never see him again.
Note: Obviously, she has to go a couple of steps with him and then say no, so the readers know she is tempted but does not want to give in. (Depending on how early you want the sex, she might sleep with him at this stage and then decide that she does not want to repeat it. However, if she does, most moralist readers will hate her) She has to realize that she has a problem on her hands
How does she initially react to the new situation? Is she
-does she feel guilty and responsible for the situation?
-taken advantage of?
-thrilled to be desired by him?
-scared that her husband will find out the truth?
-does she feel very tempted against her better judgment, as in her body says yes, and her mind says no?
THE MIDDLE, THE HOW?
Step 1/Sequence 1: She tries to solve her problem in a half hearted manner and fails, sinking deeper into the conflict.
So therefore, what does she do to try to stop things going any further, and how does she fail?
-does she try to talk to the gardener and tell him "No, I cant!" but fails to convince him?
STEP 2 (Seq 2): Her conflict deepens, and she has to make a more serious attempt to get out of her predicament, and fails.
-try to avoid all contact with her gardener, leaving her house when he comes to work?
-threaten to tell her husband that he is after her and get him fired?
-offer him money so that he leaves her alone?
-threaten to tell his girlfriend or wife? (if he has one)
Note: Once again she fails, sinking deeper into her predicament. Maybe the sequence ends with her kissing or sleeping with the gardener and then regretting it.
Step 3 (Seq 3):
Having failed in two attempts, her conflict only deepens, and now she is getting desperate. What does she do now? Does she
-seek advice from her best friend?
--try to revive her relationship with her husband, so that she will no longer be tempted with the gardener? For example, by seeking conversation or making herself attractive?
-try to go for marriage counseling with her husband?
-tell her husband the truth and makes it clear that they have to do something, make some changes in order to save their marriage?
Step 4 (Seq 4): THE TURNING POINT:
remember, at the end of THE MIDDLE, we want her to be in the position of someone who is about to enter the last and final and deciding ring of a bout. Therefore, what happens so that she is at the cross roads? Remember, I already decided at the beginning that she will fail in the end. Therefore, by the end of Seq 4, the reader has to realize that she is really tempted. She has to feel some emotional attachment to the gardener. He has to mean something to her. If all she is interested in is his big cock, the readers will despise her.
Therefore, I have to establish that she is very tempted with the gardener now, but does not want to leave her husband. This could be because she
-is afraid of breaking up her family.
-fears leaving the safety and security of her home.
-is afraid that her husband will react with a vengeance.
-is afraid that everyone else will laugh at her.
-is confused and does not know what to do.
-fears that if she leaves her husband for him, he will cease loving and wanting her
-is scared of making a huge mistake she will regret forever?
We want the RESOLUTION of the protagonist's fight. As an Author, I knew from the start hos my story would end, that is, she will fail in her struggle to resist the gardener's temptation. Now, how does this happen?
-does she meet the gardener one final time, with intent to break up, but realizes that she does not want to lose him, and hence decides to divorce her husband?
-does she make a final attempt to make things work with her husband, which ends disastrously, and hence decides for the gardener?
-does she confront her husband with the truth and he freaks out and threatens to kick her out with nothing if she leaves, but she decides to leave anyway?
-does she convince her husband to let her have an affair with the gardener, as in, an open marriage?
NOTE: She has to make the active decision to give in to her gardener. If her husband just catches her out and throws her out, then it is not her decision. If the gardener exposes their affair to her husband and gets them to part against her will, it is not her decision. If the gardener somehow manages to chase, threaten or blackmail her husband out of the picture, then it is not her decision. We want her to make a conscious decision, because it is her story. Remember, this is not real life, it is a story about a protagonist.
THE Forever after:
What happens to her, as a result of her struggle and her final decision? Does she
-leave her husband and lives happily and forever after with her new love?
-become ostracized and loses everything, but is happy with the gardener?
-have a disastrous relationship with the gardener and regrets all that she did?
-come back running to her husband (and he takes or doesn't take her back)?
-she have a happy, open marriage?
-does she turn her husband into a willing cuckold and a wimp, who likes watching her and her lover and eating cream pies?
USING THE LISTS TO DRAW UP A SKELETON OF THE STORY:
The next step is to simply pick out the things that I like from all my lists and put together the skeleton of my story. For example, it could look like....
THE BEGINNING (ACT 1):
-Name? Karen Smith
-Physical attributes: Brunette, pale skin, hour glass shaped body, curvaceous, bootylicious, with thick boobs.
-confident, vocal, bossy.
-optimistic, good natured..
-how long has she been married? 15 years
-does she have children? 2, aged 8 and 5.
-she once studied History and is an amateur Anthropologist with a keen interest in old cultures.
-she lives in a small town where everybody knows everybody and everything done in the dark quickly comes to light, especially cheating?