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Interested in Writing Fiction? A Crash Course in Creating Characters and Developing Plot This Power Point is an optional resource— use it to help jump-start.

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Presentation on theme: "Interested in Writing Fiction? A Crash Course in Creating Characters and Developing Plot This Power Point is an optional resource— use it to help jump-start."— Presentation transcript:

1 Interested in Writing Fiction? A Crash Course in Creating Characters and Developing Plot This Power Point is an optional resource— use it to help jump-start a story, improve character or plot development in a story already underway, or otherwise inform your magazine submissions.

2 Characters How do you make them? How do you make them INTERESTING?

3 Types Flat (or Simple, Secondary, Static) Round (or Complex, Primary, Dynamic) Need to Be Believable, Real Consistent Distinctive Worst beginner faults: characters who are all alike (can’t tell one from the other), or are generic. Try starting with a CHARACTER idea, not a plot idea! TIP!

4 Flash Fiction Look at “The Poet’s Husband”: character development. Look at other pieces: what do you think of this “micro fiction”?

5 Try a verbal “character sketch” now… I.e., invent someone. A person who will be with you all semester. At least 3 paragraphs. Sometimes it helps to LITERALLY draw the character!

6 Look again at your character sketch. What were you doing? Your character is FLAT! BORING! GENERIC! 2-dimensional! Look at questions in Harmonious Confusion and TRY AGAIN!Harmonious Confusion

7 What is it? How do you make one? Plot How do you make a GOOD one?

8 What is the difference between an essay or a work of expository prose and a story? Essays generally have a thesis, are primarily factual and reflective (not dramatic), are “narrated” by the actual author, and are usually structured as traditional, a- temporal arguments. Stories don’t have a thesis, are primarily dramatic and fictional, are narrated by an invented character, and have temporal structures.

9 Don’t confuse a first- person narrator of a story with the author of the story!

10 Plotting a Story What's a plot? o A sequence or pattern of events. What sets a story in motion? A QUESTION is posed, explicitly or implicitly, and you want to know the answer! Or: a balanced situation becomes…unbalanced! Some sort of equilibrium is disturbed. Keep in mind overall estimated or intuited length (remember in media res). This question linked to CHARACTER = a stronger story. Consider “Cathedral.”

11 Plot—Don’t Plod! Building Suspense o Introduce additional narrative questions. Create multiple obstacles, physical or emotional. o Control the rate of revelation. Slow pace = interior monologue, description, dialogue, exposition. Fast pace = action, answers to narrative question. o Provide false clues: what false clues might have been added to the the student stories we’ve read so far? o Develop sub- or parallel-plots which delay revelation in the main plot. o Consider creating your backstory gradually. Don't give main character’s full story immediately. Let it evolve. o Provide powerful IMAGERY which heightens tensions. Students almost NEVER use this particular resource. SETTING can also reveal character.

12 What else is important to plot? Scene Development o A unit of time and place in which (usually) important action takes place. o Can be like mini-stories within the larger story. Scene transitions o Provide a simple extra space on the page. This is common these days. o Transitional phrases. o “Jump cuts.” Allowing for ellipses, intuitive connections, leeeaaaps… (cut out needless exposition and crud). Note: many students are not aware of where their scenes stop and start, and their transitional passages are consequently “muddy”: over- elaborated, bogging the whole story down.

13 Helpful Plot Devices: Flashbacks Foreshadowing Parallel or intersecting plots or sub-plots False leads “Hooks”

14 What we’ve been examining so far is the traditional, linear, “rising action” plot…

15 Scene-setting (exposition) X X X X X Hook X X X X Crisis Resolution What SPEEDS pace? What SLOWS Pace? Introduction of minor parallel plot Hook Flashback X X Partial answer Hook = “triggering action” or “complicating action” or “narrative question” or “twist” False clue Increasing tension Standard rising and falling action ACTION! Dialogue. Internal monologue. Description.

16 And each carries with it its own worldview, understanding of time, vision of human desire

17 Alternate Plot Structures Framed narrative. Montage. Chronologically backwards plot. (Yes—backwards. See Lorrie Moore’s “How to Talk to Your Mother.”) Static plots. (See experimental stories by Robbe Grille.) No plot (as in pure interior monologue). Different plots can express alternative ways of experiencing TIME and REALITY! See the O’Brien story you read.

18 And they all lived happily ever after. Now that’s a dumb way to end a story. Do better than that

19 Hemingway’s notion of the

20 Let only the tip of the iceberg show— the right details will evoke the great mass of what lies beneath. Show, don’t tell. Provide fewer, but better, details. (Less is more.) Avoid platitudes, like the ones I’m using here.

21 It roars down the road. The engine howls, a caged animal begging to be set free; plumes of bronze smoke blast skyward with every scream. Dust billows in airborne whirlpools behind gargantuan tires. Its ominous shadow bears down upon everything trapped in its destructive path. Ever closer it approaches, once a mere speck on the horizon this beast becomes a veritable leviathan.

22 It roars down the road, The engine howls, a caged animal. begging to be set free; Plumes of bronze smoke blast skyward. with every scream. Dust billows in airborne whirlpools behind gargantuan tires. Its ominous shadow bears down upon everything. trapped in its destructive path. Ever closer it approaches, once a mere speck on the horizon this beast becomes a veritable leviathan. Once a mere speck on the horizon, ever closer it approaches.

23 Silences aren’t silent. Silences aren’t nothing. Being good with words means knowing when to shut up.

24 See Blackboard “Course Documents” for sheet. Also at: cinichol/CreativeWriting/323/Style.htm


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