I am so pleased that my new class Guide to Writing Fiction – teaching through ESILL – threw open the doors for lively discussion and new ideas for short stories or a full-length book. This class looked at the relationship between Art and Writing with a sprinkle of Music and Writing. We’ve “walked into” famous art pieces to examine what the artist was saying and explore ideas about what we would write using the painting as a prompt. Rarely do any of the ten people sitting around the table have even a similar idea about what it means or the same idea about a potential protagonist or plot, proving once again that we all see things differently and imagination is indeed a powerful gift.
We’ve used 5 Ps or Peas in A Pod to broker our discussions about the People, Protagonists, Places, Plans, and this coming week, Puzzles that authors use to develop a story. Confused? Take a look.
People = Characters are the fictional people authors create. The people serial authors use to create a comradery that keeps readers returning. Clue: Harry Potter, Hermione, Ron
Protagonist = Main Character(s) about whom the story centers, the character who has a yearning/passion for something that drives much of the action, and the character who must change in some way by the end of the story. Clue: Scarlett O’Hara
Places = Settings within the story, through which concrete, descriptive language takes the reader, a place about which the protagonist feels strongly. The importance of exploring the places from various character points of view. Clue: Mitford Series, Fried Green Tomatoes
Plan = Inciting Incident is the metaphorical door through which the protagonist walks to find their new normal. The opening gambit or first plot point that creates a story. Clue: Water for Elephants
Puzzle = Plot is the things that happen to and around the protagonist, the things that absent them, there is no story. It’s a puzzle that keeps the author guessing as they write and the puzzle the author creates to keep the reader guessing as they read. Clue: True Colors by Kristina Hannah
In an article about writing (which I’m embarrassed I can’t remember where) three excellent authors and editors who write about the art of writing were asked: What they found to be the most important aspect of telling a story. Their responses resonated with me. Each had more than one sentence in their response, but this is it in a nutshell.
Chris Vogler: “Connecting with the emotions of the audience.”
James Bell: “…keep the reader wanting – needing – to know what happens next.”
Donald Maass: “Whatever it is the author wants to say, or wants us to see, understand or get.”