The Writer's Mailbag: Installment Sixty-Three
It’s been quite stormy here in western Washington this past week, but the Mailbag made it safely to your doorstep. We don’t let a little thing like weather keep us from our appointed rounds.
Let me just take a moment to thank all who voted for me in the recent Hubbie Awards. I am honored and humbled by my awards. In many ways I’m still that insecure novice writer who began a little over four years ago, wondering if I have what it takes to make it as a writer. Your vote of confidence is greatly appreciated.
Now let’s get going. We have some quality questions to read and answer.
Template for Novels
TFrom Brian: “Bill, your answer to my question (like all of your answers) was excellent and helpful; thanks for it. However, my question as you understood it was different than my question as I understood it, so I will rephrase it.
What is a template of the essentials that apply to any story, whether an oral tale, a folk tale, flash fiction, a short short story, a short story, a novella, a novel, a novel's subplot, a play, a film drama, a graphic novel, or whatever sort of story? What elements are needed for it to be a story, without any one of which it would not be a story at all, whether excellent, mediocre or awful?
My suggestion again, with additions: ‘When a new circumstance disrupts how the protagonist expects hir situation to develop, posing a threat and/or opportunity, the antagonist opposes the protagonist's response, and this conflict puts the outcome in question and reveals and shapes the protagonist's character, the whole being told with feeling.’
Does that leave out anything needed or include anything not needed? I guess what I am seeking is a generic, fill in the blanks, story logline.”
Brian, I’m sorry for the confusion. I think I’ve got it right this time. I had to do some brushing up to answer this one. The key elements of a story are something we all do instinctively, I think, so to actually label them required a bit of research.
The consensus seems to break down a story into five key components: characters, setting, plot, conflict and resolution of that conflict. I was quite satisfied with those five until I decided to see what the Writer’s Digest had to say about it. They had a different five, namely orientation, crisis, escalation, discovery and change. In my opinion, crisis, escalation, discovery and change are the same as plot, conflict and resolution, so lump those together with characters and setting, which is basically what orientation is, and you have your template.
Is that clear as mud or as clear as a mountain lake?
Generic, All-inclusive Pronouns
Also from Brian: And another question: Your answer copy edited my suggestion, replacing 'hir' with 'his'. During this past year, I've noticed some writers using 'hir' for 'his or her' or for 'him or her' and using 'ze' for 'he or she'. See the Gender Neutral Pronoun Blog. This seems to me a good idea that should be adopted by writers for use when appropriate. Do you agree?
It’s interesting you asked this question, Brian. During the same week that you asked this, I saw “ze” for the first time and I do mean the very first time. If this is a popular trend then I missed the notification. J
Do I agree? I guess so. I see no harm in it, and if it pleases people to do so then why not? The traditional part of me has a hard time imagining Hemingway using “ze,” but what the heck. If that’s what makes people happy, I have no problem with it. Just don’t expect me to do it.
From M Abdullah Javed: “Very interesting questions this time Bill Sir and equally interesting answers thank you. Of them all, the query about the hard part of writing, like giving a birth, deserves serious approach. Though you have clarified but from an experienced person like you we need still more elaboration as most of the writer feel writing depends a lot on one's mood and the conditions in which he or she lives. But that in no way can be basis for writing a good book or to become a writer with loyal audience?”
I confess to being a little confused by this question, and I apologize for not clarifying it before I answered it.
There are so many factors that explain a writer writing a great book or having a loyal audience. First, and foremost, writing a great book is a matter of talent and skill. There is no substitute for talent. I believe there are millions of mediocre, or average, writers. I believe there are very few truly talented writers. I do not say that to disparage anyone. I just think it is the truth.
Greatness comes to few. An athlete can practice for years and never have those intangibles that make an athlete great. The same is true of musicians, painters, photographers, writers or for that matter architects.
I think when we talk about loyal audiences, though, we are talking about something completely different. I think I have a loyal audience, but I don’t think that is entirely attributable to my skills as a writer. Some of it can be traced to my personality and natural inclination to make friends and treat people with respect.
I hope I was in the “ballpark” with my answer.
From Ruby: “What do you do when you've lost the desire to write?”
Well my friend, I’ll let you know when it happens. J
Seriously, my first gut-response to your question is you should just walk away from writing and live your life. If the desire isn’t there then the product produced will reflect that lack of desire. Go do something else you are passionate about, and wait for the muse to return. She can be a fickle wench at times, and there is no forcing her hand.
Online Writing Courses
From ArtDiva: “Are there any good online study courses for a writer to learn taking their writing skill from articles into story form?”
I don’t suppose if I just said “yes” you would be satisfied, would you?
There are lots of them as a matter of fact. Check the following out:
Like I said, there are a lot of them. Do a quick online search for “free online writing courses” and pick out one that works for you.
More Next Week I’m Sure
Unless we have a blizzard in September that shuts down the power and internet, you can rest assured the Mailbag will ride again next week.
Thanks to everyone who participated this week. I look forward to the questions that have not been asked yet. Blessings to all my friends at HubPages. Without all of you this would just be a web address and nothing more.
2015 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”