Thursday, July 16, 2009

"Drawing the Story"--July 15th, 2009

"Drawing the Story"--July 15th, 2009

When working to develop your storyline or character for your new fiction novel, be sure to ask yourself six fundamental questions to ensure you are creating characters and conflict that is easily identified by an audience, thereby hooking the reader. Remember to ask yourself: Who, What, When, Where, Why & How.

For reasons beyond my understanding, it seems character development is an overly dramatized topic in the fiction industry. I think many people--and I have been guilty of this in the past--try too hard to over analyze the "rules" for developing real fictional characters. Some say you should start by creating an outline, others say you should draft a character style sheet and others say this and still others say that. I have an easy method, which stems from our early literary learnings in grade-school, that if applied, can help add depth within your characters.

Let's try some practical application using our creative minds, not our editorial perspective. Consider this very simple scenario I have drawn below for practice.

There is a young man sitting in the lobby of a hotel.

If this simple sentence above were the best you could conjure within your creative measures, let's apply those six simple and fundamental questions to the scene and start drafting greater details to the storyline and character. This is a perfect exercise you can try on your own, either with my starting sentence or with the opening of your next great novel.

Who:  Ask yourself, who is this man? The sentence says he is a "young" man. How old is he? Is he a teenage man, or possibly mid-thirties? Who is he? Do we know when your story opens? Who is telling his story? Is it him or the narrator? Do we have to wait to find out? Is he going to be the hero (protagonist) or the villian (antagonist) of the story?

What:  Ask yourself, what is he doing here? What is he waiting on? What happened to him five minutes before he walked in the door? What is waiting for him, just outside the hotel? What's he reading? What's he watching? What's he wearing?

When:  For this aspect, you can start adding backdrop to the story, by perhaps, adding a timeframe. When does the story take place? When did this young man arrive? When was he expecting someone?

Where:  Where does this story take place? Where is the hotel? Is it familiar to you? Is it familiar to your audience? Is is some place new in the world you are going to introduce to the audience, like a fantasy world far, far away? Where was the young man before he arrived? Where was he going before he arrived?

Why:  Why is he here? Why do we not know him? Why did his parents leave him, or his wife leave him or why did he just lose his job at the hotel? Why is he sad or happy or why is he reading a particular map while smoking a cigar?

How:  The last thing you should as is the how. How did this person get to where he is? How will he accomplish the task that you, the author, have set before him? How will the world receive him? How will he find the strength to go on?

By learning how to think beyond the scope of literary rules and outlines and guidelines and instead remember to ask yourself these six basic and fundamental questions, you can develop an entire history, backdrop and future for a character and storyline that is only limited by your ability to wonder. You are the creator of your own art. You have to remember to be witty, charismatic, passionate, romantic, mean, soft, sweet, polite, rude and every possible quality that is common to human beings on this planet. By encompassing those common human emotions into your characer development, you are thereby allowing an audience to relate and identify with your character. And that, is what makes a character believable. That is what moves an audience.

Try using the simple sentence I have provided and apply the six rules and share your brief story introduction here on this blog. Be as creative as you wish! (Let's keep it PG-13 please!)

...drawing stories...with words...
~Bobby Ozuna






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