Oct 26, 2016

How Writers Write Fiction: Storied Women 2

This week we talked about character desires, especially the big 'D' Desires. Your character needs to want something desperately, or else you have no story. 

Amy Hassinger talked about using character desire to create structure in a novel. Your character wants something, and obstacles get in the way. That's the way you get conflict. One example that she used was To Kill a Mockingbird, to illustrate how Scout's small 'd' desire (to make Boo Radley come out) is actually related to the big 'D' desire (to understand her community, to get them to 'come out,' so she can understand herself and her place in that community). I think that's an important lesson. The small 'd' desires build the plot, the big 'D' Desires the character's journey, and they need to be connected. I think this is the same thing K. M. Weiland is saying when she says that it's helpful to think of the plot as a metaphor for the character's inner journey. The character doesn't always even know what she wants. I think this ties into the concepts of the thing the character wants and the thing the character needs, two big 'D' desires colliding. That's how you get internal conflict. 

We also discussed point of view. It's a fairly major choice, story-wise. I prefer first or third person and try for deep point of view. Second person feels like a gamble for me, a good way to ruin a perfectly good story, and omniscient POV is tricky, because it can lead to head-hopping. The way they explained different types of POV felt overly complicated to me, so I'm not going to reference in here. If you know how to do first and third, you're pretty much good to go. 

Sometimes the POV character isn't the protagonist. One of the books used as an example was Wuthering Heights, a novel I really disliked, and the weird POV choice was a part of that. Both POV characters are fairly boring compared to the main characters, and the story feels very confusing because of the structure, in my opinion. The lecturer said that one advantage of having Nelly narrate the story is having two different timelines and another that she can speculate about the main characters, and I can see that. I just don't think it worked particularly well. Why make things more complicated than they have to be? Why wouldn't you want to get in the head of the most interesting characters? One of the reasons to use a narrator might be distance, or maintaining a sense of mystery. The Sherlock Holmes stories would be quite different seen from the POV of Holmes. 

On Mockingbird, I think it's worth noting that there are two Scouts in there, the older and the younger one. The older one can provide context that the younger one can't. That's a pretty good way to tell a story from the POV of a child without having to stick to only what the child can understand. 

This week's assignment was to write a story with a female protagonist who experiences a big 'D' Desire and have her act on it. A fun exercise, even though I got a bit overambitious and ran out of word count. 

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