So I’m sitting here working on my current yarn (that will get me fired if I publish it, but no matter) and something struck me about a comment a visitor made about never being able to really grasp– you know– writing. At the time, I was thinking about:
- Hamburger $1.99
- Cheeseburger $2.49
- Fries $1.09
- Soda $0.99
Okay, I’ve written something, a menu. I’m not going to make any money writing menus, especially without a restaurant to sell hamburgers with, but I have written SOMEthing. That’s a start. So who is my audience? If I want to make quicker money and I’m good at writing technical stuff, I may want to consider writing training manuals for a major corporation. Have fun– I could do that IF I wanted to or if I were hungry enough but– not my style. For the moment at least, we are talking about fictional writing….
What IS fiction? A fiction is just that– a fantasy– on your (the authors) part. You may never make a single dollar from your efforts, but unless you want that to be your sole aim then that’s not the point. The point is– through it all, the hair pulling, the deadlines, the needy relatives demanding your time when you really want/need to write– you want to ENJOY what you do for a living (currently, I don’t).
So the question becomes….how well do you dream? And we are not discussing that wonderful chaos that no one ever really admits to the contents of after we are awake again. In a way…I am referring to vision. Vision is that thing that allows a man to stand in the middle of a corn field growing crops to feed the hungry….and instead he “sees” the shopping center that he intends to build in five years time. He even sees this down to the janitors picking up the garbage that his store shoppers leave behind as they walk out to their cars.
Difficult? It does take a little practice but no….not really…. You think about your day ahead of you, don’t you? If not, let’s pretend that you do. In that possible future that you are considering and how it may affect you later on that day, you are GOD. You control all the lights, the scenery, what your friends and enemies say….EVERYTHING. Rarely does any of this come to pass of course, but this line of thinking is in fact, a fiction. Unless you are already a famous actor, politician, or other celebrity no one will ever want to read it, but it’s a fiction. So let’s spruce it up a bit…..
In this fiction we have a hero (this is totally off the top of my head) and we will call him Jack….. Jack walks down the street and…..he makes it to the corner liquor store a block away. Mission accomplished– pretty boring, huh? Yep. Boring.
In terms of dreaming, there are five “W”s– Who, What, When, Where, Why. Now the Who we know– Jack. The When we know, that specific scene that we are working on. The Where we usually know (unless we want to change the scene itself)– the location of that we are writing about at that moment. The WHAT….now THAT is the question….
Readers LOVE conflict…it keeps them turning the page. Boredom will close a book or a web page faster than anything else– except the dog making a turd on the living room floor 😉 So in this context, road construction that happens to be blocking the sidewalk is a form of conflict. It impedes Jack’s progress toward his goal. Is Jack getting to the liquor store important to him enough to sprint toward the mound of dirt on the concrete and jump over it? Probably not. What about go around the block or take another route? Probably. Is the obstacle so great that he turns around and decides to go to the liquor store another day? Probably not…….
In real life, these decisions happen every hour of every day. Fairly often, a particular goal will wait until the next day or next week and maybe even with good reason. Readers don’t want to read about the boring lives that we live. The already know boring– they want to read ACTION. They want ADVENTURE….or at least something different. Otherwise, why read the book?
The other side of that coin is that there is always a point of TOO much action (all at once). That becomes confusing and difficult to follow for the reader (another closed book). As an example, if Jack were in a traffic accident and then he was in yet another traffic accident/gunfight/brawl before the first conflict had been at least reasonably concluded, the story typically loses proper continuity and flow.
Then there is the WHY of the conflict. In the traffic accident example, was Jack being inattentive? Not a very good story, but possible. Was he inattentive at that moment to introduce a critical character– his future wife– into the story? Much better. The list of possibilities is endless, but as a starting point there are always the seven sins– pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, anger, and gluttony (sloth). One might also add fear…as a possible motivation. Fear that a character will either lose something that they have or not get something that they want. Fear is a WONderful motivator for a character– protagonists and antagonists alike.