Storywriting course: follow along


#1

Hello,

I have been helping Draykin solving some problems with his stories… eventually used for a short film. And thought by myself… why not go into the basic concepts of storywriting in more detail and starting a thread so everyone could follow the lessons and write his or her own story with a little interactive help?

So if you want to write a story… or have one lying around you weren’t happy with…
Join me and Draykin and lets do something about it!!


#2

Lesson one: concept

Everything starts with a basic idea so you’ll need one to start this course. Feel free to pick anything that interests you… Mind though that if you know something about this basic concept it is much easier to actually write the story.

This is a free for all… you can write about the rain… celebrrating your 25 birthday or 125 birthday… zombies… anyhing at all.

I’ll write a story to so you can see where I am going and how I implement my theories and maybe even correct me as I go along.

For a project I still need to write a story concerning a Vampire. So that will be the casefile.

If you are at a loss… Go out tomorrow and try to look for something that is grabbing your attention because it is strang or out of place. I do this everyday on my way to work so i tell my collegues what I saw and start a disscussion this way every day :slight_smile: just something I enjoy.
Just a simple example:
Today I saw that someone had thrown away a disney cap of daisy duck… and that is quite remarkable because you can buy those only in euro-disney… about 500 kilometres away. So it was once a prized souvenir to someone but now lying discarded at the garbage.

This is a great starting point for a story… someone had an emotional bonding with the cap but something made her throw it away (because of daisy character probably a girl) So why an when came this turn around… just let your imagination do the work.

Great writers can write a compelling story about anything so nothing is wrong or stupid.

So come and post your ideas!!


#3

Lesson Two: Theme

I am quickly going on; so I can get the fundamentals out of the way…

Right… so what is this “theme”?

A theme is mostly a deeper message you want to convey to your readers/viewers.

Take for instance a Grimm fairytale we all know; Cinderella. The story is about a young woman not seen for what she actually is… loving… caring and pleasant to others because she is a maid. Wanting to go to the Dance at the castle. Magic makes this happen… she falls in love with the prince but has to return in haste, everything seeming to go wrong. But finally everything turns out okay because the prince found her glass shoe and with it the main character and they marry. The end

So there are two themes here.

  1. She is a maid but gains a chance to free herself from the working class. And actually a prince falls in love with her, and not the other rich women, because she is herself, nice caring and not looking down on people because she was looked upon herself. This all leads to the theme: “What is on the inside counts”

  2. she has to flee but the prince does anything he sees fit to track her down. Some versions even the evil sisters cut of their heels in order to fit the shoe. And most versions say the prince had to come back three times before cinderella actually got the chance to try the shoe. There could be some dicussion over this but to me the theme is: “Love conquers all”

Okay… so some other concepts can be:
War is terrible
We fight for the good cause
Racism bad or Racism good
Stop Child abuse
Time is precious don’t waste it
Lust
Love
living with a disease bad/good
how to handle a problem.
Family ties
Etc.

Most of these are Big Issues and are mostly based on what different opinions there are in the world. Or like the fairytales; some lesson people got to learn. For example going to the toilet before leaving the house. Even if a bit silly… you could make it into a theme and story for your children. Of course War is bad is also a lesson.

Why is it important?

A theme is important so you actually have a point to get across with a story something people can think about. And when you can make people think about stuff and talking about stuff you have just discovered power. This theme buisiness is why Writers are very frowned upon in unfree counties like for instance the old communistic russia, where some writers were actually executed because of their texts.
So a theme is very important. Other than the above reason theme is also something that easily creates drama/conflict and when needed it makes your story go.

So now I told you this how about choosing or thinking up your theme. Well, you could choose an opinion or belief you hold dearly.
Something I usually find in my stories (It can go by accident) is the belief that all people are equal and you can learn… as long as you try hard enough and really want to, as is the thing about all people basically being good inside, some are just confused or roused.

Or choose something you think is wrong or right but what other people don’t see.
Or you can go with most stories and put in about a human emotion: love or revenge being the most used here I think.

Now go and post the theme you want to use with your concept. Even if the two don’t have anything to do with each other there is no problem. Be prepared though that it takes considerable more creativity to link war with a paperclip than with a gun, however it probably makes for a much more entertaining story because of the strangeness.

Now post your ideas and we’ll work with them, to see what it turns out to be.

So those are themes. Now I have a footnote on this because themes have a lot to with the concept… because a theme can be your concept. In cinderella as with most fairytales the story is written to learn some social behavior to children so the actual concept was to convey a theme. Everything else (setting main concept and characters) came later. So if you are going to follow this you can actually choose a theme as your concept.

BTW. my main theme will be the gain and loss of power. The concept is a vampire story.


#4

Hello!.. We continue…

Lesson three: Overview: finish, start and middle.

Strange title you might think…

The end;

But as quickly mentioned in the previous lesson writing is about seeking connections. Connecting your concept with your theme… but also connecting one event with the other. So Actually alot of writers (look up JK Rowling for instance) write the end before anything else. This is so they know where they need to connect to… and to give them something to strive or look forward to thus ensuring a will to finish the story.

And this is not such a strange notion because else you could literally go on for ever… or until death. Writing an end first has a few advantages:
First: A story is all about the road and no so much about the final destination. So if you got the end… only the fun stuff remains.
Second: A good story has to have a change (this brings the theme into play). The main character needs to have learned something… the others have to adjusted their point of view… In short the theme needs to have worked… love has been achieved… revenge executed… a disease conquered or it has finished the victim. etc.
Third: It is your chance to make people think. When they lay away the story or exit the theatre the identity of people starts up again and normal life ensues. So the end is closest to this point where people are actually thinking for themselves again and not for your main character. That means that if you want them to think about stuff it should be mentioned at the end. If you want to give them a feeling they won’t forget to quick you should do it at the end… so it has the most chance of lingering when the people are living their lives again.

In short… the end is very important (more so if writing to educate) and very hard to write. So when it is done it is done and it better be quick is the message.

On the other hand (and this is why I have trouble finishing stories) I like a story to flow… and it makes it easier for me to do so when writing it chronologically… from start to end. On which note it takes us to the next part…

The start:

Well the start is pretty important too. They say writing is rewriting and nothing is more true for the beginning. Because the mythological first sentence is about the most rewritten thing on the planet. And for many writers a fear. However the start is bigger than just the first sentence… and I think the first sentence is not as important as the whole start itself. The start has a few important points in itself. First and foremost it has to capture the imagination of your audience. This is that most elusive and vague thing that makes people afraid to write first sentences… but actually you can’t go to wrong with this I think… as long as you have figured out the concept and theme… and maybe your subject.
The second thing the start has to do is introduce the images, atmosphere and characters you are going to start with. But in most short stories these are also the ones you are going to finish with.
To get the start right you have to ease people into your mind and using things they understand and recognize trying to make them believe in your world.

In short… the start is just that a start… but it is the first thing people are going to see/ read so like in life make sure the first thing is a good thing. And also like in life introduce people to the concept you are going to use thoughout your story.

Well that about wraps it up for the start :slight_smile: One thing I like to add and this is also a personal belief is the importance of atmosphere. I think you can make people understand more and captivate more by using everything you can to set an atmosphere that brings up the right emotions you want to convey. This is why film music in terribly important. Since this is the beginning of the story you have to work extra hard to bring everybody into the atmosphere or state of mind you need them to be to actually feek along with the story.

Finally…

The Middle:

So if you know anything about music you know that this is where it happens. Or some imagery for others: being born is over… and death is far away… so Live!
well the middle is most important since it has to take you towards the end in one piece while at the same time explaining why it is the ending takes place. Or in other stories (detectives for instance) the ending explains all and the middle is there to confuse you and to set you up for the marvellous revealing :slight_smile:
Anyway… The important thing is the arc. The middle has the story arc in it and this is why people will want to experience it all the way through. The story arc comprises in longer stories of a series of smaller arcs which all follow the same basic setup and have a climax at there top.
Most story arcs have this kind of shape: …start___,middle…----’’’`’-end., With the highest point just before the end starts. So as you can see you are building up towards a climax… a very large contrast with what comes after… end usually very dramatic.
The way this buildup is done and the very way the climax happens is what keeps writers… good writers and brilliant writers apart. There are lots of techniques to hide information so the buildup goes slower or leave clues so people can get some kind of idea what is going to happen… be it emotional changes or items that seem to be around by chance… in every story everything should be there for a reason So even the bottles of milk might be some psychological vision that the main character has grown up on a farm.

Well that about wraps it up. for this lesson. Next we will go indepth on “the end of the story” and write one for our own.


#5

To the Draykin:

These (see lesson 3) is the basics I was talking about… read it through and think what pieces of your storyline fit were and see what is missing… If all is correct you’ll be concluding that you are missing some contrast and conflict.

To Everyone:

BTW… If anyone finds this interesting or is reading it… PLEASE don’t hesitate to POST!.. It is quite some work putting this to text so when nobody shows up I shall stop at lesson 5… then Draykin knows enough. And well… I can finish my story in my own time.

Thanks!


#6

I am no writer, but sometimes I want to give it a try. keep posting. If anything else, I will definetly stop by and read.


#7

hi matsman,
thank you for making this topic its very useful for me and really give me a clue on what to do next on my rough idea. im looking forward on your next lessons…

~im going to giv you a special credit on my project.

-sorry my english is limited and not fluent-


#8

I am reading your lessons with great interest as well. And it is very useful for me!
Please dont stop


#9

Hi…

Thanks for replying people! Good to see you enjoy this :slight_smile: I really appreciate it!

I am just clearing up a few points to get my own conscience cleared… so here is a sort of disclaimer…

I myself really enjoy writing, even if I am not doing it on a constant basis. I am therefore no professional in the field. I do try to be original, captivating and true to the source of inspiration when I am writing and my view is that some writers and especially translators miss a few of these points.
I say this to explain why you should read this course and then go and think your own thoughts about what I said and even try and google for more info about certain points. I come from a small country in europe and not everywhere the same rules apply.
What I am trying to say is that you must no take everything for granted. I might be wrong in some case. So please keep thinking.

I am trying to give information in a practical setting, trying to tackle one point at a time. If you don’t agree with me on something or you miss anything please feel free to butt in and tell us your viewpoint… It will make everything so much more complete.

And last… have fun. I will try to not set rules you have to follow but just tips hints and insights on how most writing in our world is constructed and why it works.

This really should go as the first post actually or the last but now is better than never and I have warned you about the hazards of following me and reading all my pieces of mind.

To make matters worse… I am no native English speaker myself so please forgive me any stupid typo’s or mistakes… I do run a spellings checker since I feel that is the least I can do but not all faults are filtered I already noticed… So my apologies for that, I hope you don’t think less about me.

Anyway… I hope I have not discouraged you with this little piece of truth but it means a lot to me that people go on and think for themselves.

ON to the lesson!


#10

Lesson four: Writing: The Basic Layout and Then

I said previous lesson we where going to tackle the end next… well guess what… I changed my mind. There is something that has to be done first… because this will help you pace your story better and give you a firm hold to work with as to where you are going and what needs to be done. It may not be as insightful as last lesson but it is a very practical step just like the first two points.

So it is finally time to start working with the things you choose to make a story with. There are two schools of thought on this writing thing: On the one hand there are people who like to write small snippets…

like “the shoe slid off her foot during her flight from the palace” and “the prince finds the shoe in pursuit”(I am using Cinderella again as the example)

…and then refining them until they are intermingling and form one complete scene…

“the clock chimed and the bell sounded for the eleventh time and Cinderella, while out of breath kept running. Out of the palace doors and down the steps towards her carriage. On the last step her shoe slides off and nearly losing her balance, but holding herself upright with pure willpower she stumbles onward and enters the carriage. The mice gallop away and when the doors burst open once again, to reveal the prince, all he can see is the back of the coach leaving the gate. Still panting from the chase he descents the stairs and sits down watching the coach turn into the forest. Resting his head in his hands and wondering if he will ever see this angel again. Then his eyes catch a glint and suddenly his hard jumps… It is a small chance but it might possibly work… He picked up the glass shoe and smelled it. Cleaned it with his sleeve and with a slight hopeful glance in his eyes went up the stairs back into the palace.”

This is basically once again the connecting technique at work… and then detailing of course. I would particularly recommend this if you are working with a dynamic storyboard where you can first define the key points and then fill in the areas around those with the shots leading from and away from them… detailing as you go and maybe even redrawing the key points as multiple shots.
I use this technique for a cartoon at the moment in which every episode will be part of a bigger whole… I first wrote some jokes and now try to fill in the space to get from one joke to the next or create multiple ones in the same kind of basic set of givens or setting.

The second school of thought deals with writing the scenes/chapters chronological. Most writers who work this way however do have a very good idea or even a basic outline on paper about the points they want to make and what scenes are going to appear. From this basic outline they start with the first sentence and work their way through to the end… basically what I just did with the above example of Cinderella where I actually not expanded on the info I had, but just went ahead and wrote the whole detailed scene in one go.

If you don’t have a way of working you should probably try both since both techniques have their advantages:

The first technique lets you stay close to the original plot because of the very controlled way the parts or loose sentences grow together. Second it makes for a very dynamic way of writing because you can actually let people read a first draft (on medium detail) and detail it up later without you having to rewrite all details when some things need changing. It is very much like a mock up or concept drawing. Third you can actually start very small with very particular sentences you absolutely want to use in your work… you can actually make a story from a poem this way and still keep the original embedded within.

The second technique has the advantage that the story will end up as a whole whatever way because it has been written as such. Also since you will do longer pieces of text it is easier to get into a character, atmosphere or feeling you want to portray and stay there until it is done.

As I understand it, today most people favour the first technique. As a photoshop user I know the strength of layers and this is something akin to layers but for writing. However, and for me this is a big one, I find it quite hard to switch over from part to part, snippet to snippet and make it all come together like a whole. I find it chaotic to work like that… With imagery (like comics or storyboard/movies) it works better because you have something like six sentence chapters/scenes to work with and those could be more or less free-standing pieces. In text it is different for me because I want to even have the changes in scene under my total control and work more with a feeling and/or an atmosphere in mind than actual points of interest as a basis.

So as said before the bottom line is you should probably try both and see what you like. If you can do the first… go with it and learn to use the technique better… if you have a lot of difficulty getting the story to flow and without any gaps… you are probably better of sticking to technique two.

Well… now for the assignment for this lesson… we are actually going to do something now. Make a basic layout for your story. Start with writing down the ideas you had and then see where they would fit best considering the theory in lesson 3 about the end, the story arc with building towards the climax, and the beginning.

quick recap:
The end is where the point of your story is made (theme and message) and everything is tied together, and you want your readers to keep thinking about the stuff you told them…

The climax can be anything as long as it is a turning point in the story, either for the main lead, the atmosphere, setting, etc. …

The story arc should build up tension so as to the climax being there in a natural way and the end being the release of tension. Let things go from bad to worse or enhance some viewpoint more and more or less and less, even an increase in sound could be tension building…

The beginning should introduce your readers to the situation, make them feel at home and make them curious about what would happen next.

So I will do this for my story and you can do it for yours… and then we can compare notes!
Next we will definitely do the end :slight_smile: so stick with me!


#11

I had a problem doing my layout… I am kind of cheating here because I know already more about my main character and what the story will end up like. This because it is a piece based upon a role-playing character. So I have already researched some background thus giving me an advantage.

Anyway I will give a quick layout about what is going to happen and then my finished version:

the guy learns to live with his vampire powers and actually finds he is better at his job while doing so… this gives him the edge against competitors and makes him enough money to go live the quiet life when finally his market dries up.
However when he stops working he suddenly is faced with the standing vampire community he has to be a part of or die. This is kind of a shock but hey… he experienced worse. getting the hang of bribery, deceit and use of power, he actually gains a status within this community and holds his own pretty well. But then he makes a mistake and the world comes crumbling down around him… he is being outcast and they even try to hunt him down but he escapes. power and wealth have gone to his head. But in the vampire community you can’t lay down low for a long time… you gotta feed so he is actually caught and brought before the prince where he has to gain her trust or be executed.

okay so the problem i got are the two climax points… his downfall and the coming before the prince. So what is the solution to this… make it a story into a story… following the grand tradition of old “frame tales” (one story frames the other) like the Arabian nights (1001 nights) and the Canterbury tales (old English poem which houses a number of tales told by a travelling party, while the travelling is the main storyline)

By the way both are kind of interesting subjects if you feel you are in to it.The Canterbury tales by Geoffrey Chaucer are basic English literature. But I find that the history of the Arabian nights (Scheherazade) is very interesting reading material… But I digress.

So after thinking about this and changing some stuff around I got this (and i think you must admit it is stronger)

He has got to feed but what is this a decoy?? he is captured and brought before the prince. And he has to gain her trust and probably play on her forgiving side as well.
He tells about his history.
I actually found that with my new gained powers I am better at my job. I immediately see the advantage I have against my competitors and use it to make enough money so I can go live the quiet life when the market dries up.
However when it does I was suddenly faced with the standing vampire community. They told me be a part of us or die. This is kind of a shock but hey… I experienced worse, in my trade. It is actually not that hard and getting the hang of bribery, deceit and use of power, I gain some sort or reputation. But then I made a mistake and the world came crumbling down around me… I had to run because they wanted to hunt me down.
However I escaped. power and wealth has gone to my head and I lost it all.
The prince has listened to all this and makes up her mind… then she speaks the verdict.

there are two ways of explaining this:

one can say you got to climaxes so naturally you have two stories. OR, and this is the better one, i moved one climax to the beginning to help me captivate the audience. It kinda equals the explosion of a tyre in the middle of times square, since it is text it is more subtle and works brilliantly. Adding lots of action and mystery to the beginning because people will want to know what is going on. And what it was that made that sound (ehm why the main character is being manhandled.

So this is not a very good example because I deal with a slightly different view because of my set-up.

I will therefore use only the middle story as a casefile and add the framing story later.

As you will see there are still some gaps in the layout… and a lot of questions as to personality, motive and cause and effect. If you have even more gaps that is no problem because I knew a little more about this as already said in the beginning. All those gaps will be filled when we start writing.


#12

Hello, I’ve been busy but here we are again!!

Lesson five: The end

So now that we have our layout complete we know where the end starts and what it covers.

I think it would be good to first cover several different types of endings so you can see what kind of ending your story is (going to be) using… it can of course also be a combination of several… since I will be talking about archetypes here. And with all archetypes they are used to show the differences (black and white) and not the similarities or subtleties in life, nature and way of thinking (grey). Well lets get this on the road.

Every ending is basically a descending line…But there are some differences in how this line flows down.

The natural ending:(most used ending ever) the simple descending line until the bottom
happy end
dramatic end

This is the basic ending… all story lines are coming together and the end is completed with a final scene that tells everybody the story is over and what has happened. Some examples of this type of ending are: Romeo and Juliet and every “and they lived happily ever after”. I think you get what I mean.
As said this is a simple and straight line towards the end so you wrap up one storyline at a time until all is resolved and then you end it.
Important to write a good natural ending is to end with an event or emotion that tells the audience the chapter is over. We looked over the shoulder of our main lead and followed him, her or it through a rough time or a happy time and to make the public aware we have finished following the lead we need to make a change So as to say well this chapter of his or her life is over so now we can go our own way again.
The difference between a drama and comedy/happy end lies in the nature of the ending change. If the change is happy, a wedding, new found love, a new discovered talent. Then it is a happy end. If the change is sad, death, a fight, unanswered love, tragic accident, deceit, then the whole end gets dramatic.

Off course this rule can be bend and a story can have an happy end with a death, for instance if the main lead is happy that the death occurred. Same is true for a dramatic end. If the main lead is homophobic and in the end turns out to be in love with an other guy then you have one dramatic end.
(however this is not a natural ending because you would need to tell what the lead does in this situation… so this a open ending —nice bridge eh?—>)

The Open ending: (in use everywhere, particularly comics) this is also the simple descending line but it gets cut off somewhere and leaves us wondering when or even if we ever hit the bottom
cliffhanger

I already gave the first example above… this is an ending in which the reader is kept hanging in as what happens next. This can be the easiest end to write because you can simply say and this is done… end. However it is not as simple because in most cases an open ending is used to make it possible to add to the story at a later point in time. I speak of the cliffhanger.

The cliff hanger is quite special and it is not possible here to simply say well this is the end. The cliff hanger needs to have tension so people can’t wait to see what happens next. So the best way to describe this ending is to call it a middle. While wrapping up your storyline you once again go up a very steep story arc and let the people hang at the top.

The standard open ending is more susceptible to easily saying: “its done, this is the end”. But I think a standard open ending should be a new beginning. So instead of heightening the tension you write a new beginning about what happens next. for instance you can make an open ending from a happy ending by following the couple into the car in which they go on their complementary trip. And then seeing that at the first truck stop the guy hits on the coffee girl and the woman getting the number of the car mechanic… the end.

Main point is that an open ending is still an ending an needs to be written as such… and it is not the point at which you choose to stop writing. Because even an open ending needs attention. You need to know where you are going and if planned all right you can easily make your audience think about something… If you end with the main lead having a choice in what he does next… then everybody in your audience will think about it and make that choice… So it is very powerful if you want to give your readers something to think about when they put away the book or leave the theatre.

The starting ending: (story loops/main lead change) here we hit something in any of the above cases and that something ends up to be the start of the story all over again
Actual looping
Symbolical loop

This is also a kind of open ending but has its own special section… I always have a lot of fun when encountering a loop ending… I think it is very funny and shows a lot of dedication on behalf of the writer. When executed correctly you can put in a number of loops in one story heightening the complexity considerably but also heightening the enjoyment. One of the most amazing loop stories I have ever written is a time travel story by Robert A. Heinlein called “By His Bootstraps” try it sometime :slight_smile:

To end with a loop you got to wrap up your storyline like you do in every ending and then creating an open end that has everything the start of your story had. If your story is about a guy losing his dentals in the sink, turning the world upside down to get them back, then ending by him losing them again is a loop. The circumstances don’t have to be the same, only the event or emotional state of the main lead have to be (another great loop story (without actually ending in a loop) is the animation short “grey” or “50 percent grey”… look it up on google :slight_smile: )

Besides the actual factional loop you can also hint towards a loop by introducing only one of several things that happened in the beginning. Making sure to keep your audience unsure if everything is going to happen again. An you have the symbolical loop. What I mean here is a loop that does point in a direction. Back to the guy who lost his dentures and got them back: The loop is he loses them again in the same way, the hint towards a loop is to make him do exactly the same action (placing the dentures precarious on the side) and cutting before the dentures actually fall. The symbolical loop would be for him to lose his wedding ring while throwing away his garbage. Only the actual fact of losing something is kept. This way the public can anticipate what can be a story on its own… they know what the guy is wanting to go through to get his dentures back… so he’ll be doing that for his ring as well.

Getting to the last type of ending I could define

The Revealing ending: (interactive stories, detectives, jokes) this ending is a very steep slope… you go down very fast and every step is an surprise or different interpretation than you thought it was
Funny ending
Intriguing ending

So this is quite a strange ending and only to be used if your middle is written for it. However it would be fun to try and make a revealing ending for any story. The revealing ending shows us something we haven’t seen before. In a simple joke you are being set up to expect something that isn’t meant and in the end there is the laughter because something else entirely was being meant by the joker.
Every revealing ending needs this kind of set-up for it to be functional. I make a difference in the funny ending, the ending of jokes and the intriguing ending as seen in for example detective stories.

The joke ending is in most cases a simple bang. It is quick and hard hitting and then people are laughing… and when people are laughing they can’t think so you have your end.

In the intriguing story you are going much more slowly, recreating the start and end in a new and interesting (intriguing) way. Trying to make the audience think everything over and suddenly see all kinds of connections that they didn’t see before. The best thing to do in this case is to have multiple solutions… that way you can keep your audience amazed until finally the right solution is presented. Another way to keep the readers focused until the actual end is having two keys… one revealing the connections and one revealing the event or object/person behind all those connections.

Well that about wraps it up for this lesson. Next (somewhere the next couple of days) I’ll give a few quick writing tips and then we can actually start writing!


#13

I havent read everything yet, but so far you have been a huge help. I greatly appreciate these lessons, and I thank you for taking your time in doing this.


#14

Hi Lpredaza

Thanks yourself for expressing your appreciation. (wow that sentence use words that are too long people :slight_smile: )

BTW we are still on the first page of this thread… isn’t it amazing… considering the amount of text…

I am currently working on my ending and the quick writing tips. Expect the tips as soon as friday (sorry don’t have that much time this week) and hopefully by my ending and the adjoining deconstruction as to stategy, style, technique and choices.
This weekend.

and once again it is great to know that you are being read and that people enjoy and learn by what they read.

Thanks for your reply! And thanks for tuning in :slight_smile:


#15

This thread/course is VERY interesting! For people who “are thinking of writing a story one day” (hmm hrr like …well… myself) this is just holy bread…

Thanks a lot matsman, I just read about half the text, now I go back to read the rest…


#16

Hi yorik I hope you have enjoined and finished reading the second half as well :slight_smile: Thanks for the kind words and well…
As about writing that “story I always wanted to write” what has kept you from doing it. I know that about 20 percent of the people living in the Netherlands have the desire to once see they’re writing work in print but only 2 percent actually let it being read by others :slight_smile:
(could be a bit wonky on those numbers cause it has been some time ago that that research was done).

If we can solve that fear together (all of us) maybe we can get more people to write and I think the world would be better for it. More history could be remembered and with higher quantity comes higher quality is what I have learned in school.

And do not say you don’t know what to write because everything can be a subject… you can even sit down and write about that you don’t know how to write. I know so because I have written about having a writers block.

And never say that you can’t. I am a firm believer that if you really want to (and that is the catch) you can!
And also that you can learn anything even if you have no talent at all.

Anyway… I am ranting a little… actually thanks for your support I appreciate it very much that you enjoy reading and learning from these lessons :slight_smile:

Well on with my quick tips


#17

quick writing tips:

-1- Show or Tell…

like in comics and storyboards- it is always better to show something than to tell something. Don’t say “it was a cold night” but show that it is a cold night:“when he opened
the door a shiver went through him and he couldn’t see a thing. But after a while he could
make out the contours of the tree and the driveway and the car.”

-2- Use your environment…

As seen in manga comics emotions are made more clear by the background or environment. The lightning is always on time, If someone feels down it rains, if someone is happy the
blossoms soar through the air. You should try to do the same but more subtle :slight_smile:

-3- Imagine what you are describing…

When I write I always have a vivid picture in my mind. That way I can describe the
environment in relatively high detail and the stairs stay always in the same place. when I
don’t know what something should be. I go and find a picture, sound or description of the
object or objects. This will ensure everything is believable for your readers.

-4- Use your senses…

And describe not only what you see but also what it feels like, what is smells like, what
kind of emotions are triggered by a sound. This is very valuable in creating the correct
interpretation of images for your audience, besides giving more pleasure in reading.

compare:
“then his hands where on the gun”

to
“he inhales the smell of the gun, feels its hot barrel and comfortable wooden end in his hands”

and
"He almost burns his fingers on the barrel and then holding his fingers under the tap
decided to rinse them thoroughly with soap to rid himself of the smell.

the first is only vision, the second the character has a loving relation to the gun and has
used it before with pleasure. In the third the character has a hating relationship with the
gun while also being a bit ignorant about it.

To deepen the involvement of the audience in your story use ALL your senses in descriptions.

-5- make sure your audience understands you

An old joke (at least in my country) is asking for a “turbulence generator” when you are at
a tea party. This is of course… for those who know the dictionary an ordinary teaspoon
because it generates turbulence in your tea. However there are lots of people who almost
faint when they hear words like this, hence the fun.

This is not something you want with your story. So remember to use language appropriate to your audience. I’ll be coming back on this with a full lesson shortly because it has lots of facets and whole books are written about it.
However for this “quick tip” remember to keep the vocabulary easy to understand and the
sentences as short as possible.

And the biggy…

-6- writing is not rewriting but using delete and backspace

In my country the saying “writing is rewriting” also exists, however there is an important difference. In Dutch the saying is: “schrijven is schrappen” (you can throw it at a translator to see the exact translation) It means that you’ll have to delete whole parts of your story because it takes away from what you’ll want to tell.

So when writing something your ultimate goal is just like in game modelling (as low as possible with keeping the shape) or as in quick painting (if you can do it with one stroke why use five?) to just use what you need. So read your story after you have written it and get a pencil and be critical and cross out everything that has nothing to do with what you want to tell.

The better you do this the better your story gets.

I have wondered about this because detail is very important and I have read lots of books in which the writers have gone through and amazing amount of detail. Back to Cinderella: some versions have the scene in which Cinderella has to sort the beans. other versions have cut this. Think about why it can be important to the story… would you cancel that part?

>>>don’t read on think about it yourself!!<<<

I would not… Because it gives more depth… this scene shows us that the step family is really evil it creates tension because we are tempted to think she’ll never be able to go with this assignment without being discovered and because it is such an impossible task to do quickly is shows us the might of the fairy godmother. So… yes it may not look that important story wise but maybe is because of the points I just mentioned. For those of you who know a little about psychology or dream explanations. I am sure you can think of twenty other ways why the beans are important… because it has also a lot of symbolism in it.

-7- Make yourself comfortable

Last but not least it is important to not be afraid to start. Some people are afraid of the white paper… artists too. They usually start by colouring the background or just going wild with colours before actually doing what they set out to do. I writing you just have to start writing. You sit down… maybe put some music on to put your mood right with what you are going to write and type or scribe (I still love the pen and paper!! even when writing… you can cross out and release anger or pen down quick guidelines for yourself in the sideline… )
It should be easier to start for us already because we have done the getting wild with ideas in our outline and know what is needed… so you actually already started and because we start at the end… it is not at all hard to begin because it isn’t a beginning :slight_smile:
See how easy it is to start.

I’ll be back at the end of the weekend with my own story… Have lots to do but I’ll try and finish writing that ending Saturday. So it should be up Sunday with my interpretation and deconstruction.

Cheers!


#18

My ending.

First I copied my layout to a new document (everything is written in notepad because I detest the most used Microsoft text editor). Then I decided what would be the height of the story, or the climax. I decided that the most action packed thrilling moment is the escape from the hunting party of power hungry vampires. And according to the lessons it is also a dramatic contrast because the main lead has to live in poverty on the streets from then on in constant fear to be discovered… while before the climax he was a man with money, a house and an powerful image that kept him safe.

With the decision of where the climax is going to be, the beginning of the end is easily found (right behind the climax remember? :slight_smile: ) So then I went ahead and deleted (I had
copied the layout!!) everything up until the beginning of the end. Leaving me with three
sentences:

I had to run because they wanted to hunt me down. However I escaped. power and wealth has gone to my head and I lost it all.

So this is were I am going to start imagining what someone would do to keep himself safe.
And thinking about how to get the feeling of despair (from the third sentence) across to my readers. I actually started with the latter point, because I find feelings easier to write.

the end:

Well that was it… I sat in the dark and the water dripped along the walls. My lips were
not exactly dry but more frozen together and my throat was feeling like paper or rusty
hinges. I felt like I didn’t know how to talk any more. Being afraid of being heard I had
made no noise in the last two days or so. But now I was kinda safe. now I could risk it. I
opened my mouth and said my name: Felix.
First soft and then louder and louder. But I dared not to scream. My voice croaked and
creaked but it was good to hear myself again. Then it hit me.
The memories came back, the house, the feeling of safety when I turned the key in the lock, the joy of heat from the light bulbs and radiators. The people I met in my daily affairs, and the power. Oh, yes the power was a great feeling, the best ever. But I had made a
mistake and everything was lost. A dark cloud came over my mind at that time and I tried
not to think about what I had done to myself. But it is always much harder not to think
about something, you don’t want to think about, then when you can think about something else. I began singing… softly for myself. I began singing memories from cats. And yes it is a sad song but something in there made me feel at home. Made me feel like I could make
it all good again.
I think I had been sitting there for about two hours singing the same couplet over and over. I didn’t know any of the other lyrics. Then the beast started to creep up from the
depths of my being. I hadn’t eaten for at least two days. I needed blood. My mind focussed and all thoughts were concerned with getting my regular dosage without revealing myself.

My hands followed the walls until they encountered something akin to a door. Slowly I forced the old door open, bending the metal in the process. I took a look outside and considered myself very lucky. It was nearly morning. That means very little danger of others who might know who I am. They have all returned to their coffins. My senses scanned the environment on food; I saw a cat chasing birds and then I had a brainwave: What if I played the part of the cat?
Then nobody would suspect the presence of a vampire and the cats would eat properly for as long as I am around. Because I have superpowers… even compared to a cat. A small smile formed on my lips and I promptly joined in the hunt for birds. The cat retreated into the bushes as soon as he heard me coming, but the birds are chattering loud and I could grab one with every hand before the whole colony took to the sky.
Draining the birds until they were almost dry the beast subsided a little. Then I threw the meat towards the bushes. I know the cat is still there. And I wonder if I can catch some more birds, maybe a seagull or something big that would get me going until tomorrow at least.

And that is how I kept myself alive. By pretending I was the bad kitty that hunted the birds and rats, and fish as well, however they taste disgusting. And in time the strangest thing happened: the cats came to know me and everywhere I went there was always a cat hoping to get some food. Even in the neighbourhoods I never visited before, even in other towns. I didn’t had a meaningful life any more but I survived, and fed the cats. And thus ends my story.

Your people picked me up. I guess, I must have gotten the time wrong today. Kill me. Finish the job you people started two years ago. I have nothing to get from life any more. Do it finish me! Put me in a plastic bag and drown me in the river.

-the end

I have now written out those two sentences by going with the brainwaves I had… For you this is going to be a little harder (or easier if you share my view) because you didn’t had a main lead defined.

On the one hand: I had to put in certain points resulting in less freedom and more thinking in which direction you need to go next.

On the other hand I had a basis of a personality to act out in the text, making it possibly easier to get a certain psychology going on.

Both thoughts are viable and up for personal preference. However I find it easier to develop a personality and character while writing. That way I can make the decisions as I go along and keep the flow I am in. Because when I have to many things I have to keep in check. the comparison between writing and puzzling comes to mind, and I find myself sometimes stopping or writing different things for as long as a week before I have discovered a sorta fitting piece. Most of the time still needing to rewrite at least some part to make it fit perfectly.

What I was tying to say is: use your ending to make a few discoveries about the personality of your main lead. Use the ending to get into character and to simply write. Afterwards you can read it over and think about what kind of personality treats you might have unconsciously written already and base the personality on those. We will be talking about characters, personality and theatre very soon. Because a writer is simply an actor, just as an animator is an actor. We need to exaggerate some of our own characteristics and tune down other so as to predict what the main lead in the story is going to do. It is all imagination and the ability to put yourself in someone others shoes.

Finally you have heard me talking about a flow for sometime now and I just realised that it can be a bit vague.
The first meaning I use is flow as in water and waves: the story has to go from a to b without breaking and without very sudden turns. This has all to do with every action has a reaction and every story being driven by something (more about that in a later lesson). It all has to be logical connected without bending the logic to much or using chance to introduce drama (“Ah, ultimate prince of darkness do you also need shoes?” yes saviour of the planet, I also need shoes but I think I want the ones your holding! Lets fight!" know what I mean…)

The second meaning I use is to describe the way my mind works when I am writing. For me
writing is like brainwave upon brainwave. As if you are brainstorming with 10 people. When I get an idea and put it to paper my mind takes over and promptly hands me the next step in the story and the next, and the next… ect. Thus creating a work flow or creative flow of ideas. Now you say: “How am i going to learn that?” and I have unfortunately no answer for you. It has to do with letting your mind run free and having a good imagination and having read, seen and experienced enough to make your imagination seem believable.

Possibly the best way to explain it is to compare it with talking. Writing is talking, only
because nobody has to hear it the first time… you have all the time in the world to make the sentences sound beautiful and think about what you are going to say next.

Anyway… I have tried to address only the most basic things you need to know exist in stories before you start writing and now that we have written our first piece of text I will try and explain a little more techniques. that way you can freely write and later rewrite the texts when you know what to look out for. That way you keep the creativity and make it better with technique.

That wraps it up for writing the end. I still have to say that I am going to delete some parts and rewrite some other parts, and probably insert a piece of text as well because I am not completely happy with the way this turned out. For example; the change from frightened fugitive to hunter and cat lover is far to quick in my taste. Next lesson I am going to explain speed. Afterwards you can create the text equivalent of super slomo, a montage and use comma’s the way I do. :slight_smile: see you then!


#19

lesson 6: writing: speed and punctuation

Like movies and comics… in text you also want to control speed. It is just another tool to give more drama and dimension to your stories. Something that you’ll want to understand before moving on and because I put in a nice bridge in the last post :slight_smile: . First of all let us start with the small stuff and the pure technical side:

While reading everybody has his or her own speed of processing information. For the programmers among you; every word has to be processed and the more you read, the more words you know the easier and quicker this process gets. When you are reading a text with long words you don’t always understand a text is quickly filed under “boring” and you will be exhausted once you have finished it. This is absolutely something to avoid. See also the next lesson about tailoring your text to your audience.

But luckily we can influence the speed in which people are reading in other ways then using almost impossible words.

-drums- Punctuation!!

So we all know what to do with the marvellous point, comma and paragraph, when to use them and how to structure them. But what if we throw all that overboard and look at them again only this time not from the pure technical point of view but as tools to make our reader go slower or quicker. What if these punctuation markers become a style aspect?

The point:

The point states the end of a sentence and since about 1970-1980 in my country the usage of the point has changed. I don’t know how it is in English, so enlighten me :slight_smile: I do know that since that time the sentences don’t have to have the subject and predicate. The sentence was redefined as starting with a capital and ending with a point. Nothing else.

That makes even the last sentence “Nothing else.” a valid sentence even if it has no subject. (the actual subject is referred to and is in the previous or next sentence) In the old time this was an error and should be written like “The sentence was redefined as starting with a capital and ending with a point, nothing else.”
If we compare the two then we see that because of the extra capital and point the first nothing else packs a punch while the second far less so. Maybe you find the difference very subtle, but this works on a unconscious level. But now I used the point to make a point (pun intended) And I was talking about speed. You can speed up a text by using more small sentences and therefore more points. Because a short sentence reads quicker than a long one. Additionally it gives a kind of staccato (musical term meaning with rhythm) which can be compared to running steps or an action sequence in a movie. Thus giving the text a sense of falling towards a conclusion.
The same is true for less and longer sentences which will slow a text down considerably.

Next up the comma: The comma is the little brother of the point and when used by dozens you’ll automatically end up with an almost impossible long sentence and very confused readers. With the comma it is therefore the other way around. the more comma’s you use the longer it takes to get to the next sentence and therefore the end of the text. Comma’s have some rules to apply to them and since I don’t know how your education on the comma was (mine was terrible to non existent) I will quickly glance over the possibility’s and restrictions.

The commas most important feature is to provide a micro pause. You put a comma whenever you want to your audience to take a breath, and move on. I will immediately address the issue of using and, and a comma directly behind each other. Some people have learned that they are the same and cannot be used in that way. I am a fervent supporter of the usage of both a comma and the word and. Because the sentence gets a different feeling.

If I write: “Take a breath and move on.” it sounds like one continuing action and if a monotonous voice tells you something.

If I put the comma in it is different: “take a breath, and move on” Now the sentence has life and more importantly describes two different actions.

Further more you can make a sub sentence within a sentence using comma’s to explain something. Then you use commas where you could use brackets: My friend, We call her Mari, has a wedding.

We also use a comma to break a sentence in two: “I said to her whatever and gave her the finger, but then she took my hand licked my finger. It was gross!” (don’t ask why I write this… I have absolutely no clue why I have this kind of stuff in my head :smiley: )

And you have to use a comma when giving a list: eggs, milk (low fat), flower, butter, raisins. (mind that when making a list you have to use brackets to give more info about something. you cannot make a list using commas and use the commas to make a sub sentence at the same time).

Before going onto paragraphs first something quick: ?! this is something else than !?. An exclamation mark is used to boost the sentence it closes. Therefore ?! could be written as “WHAT??”. It basically is a boosted question. While !? is a enhancement of the sentence with and added question and could be written like “huh?” One more example “Everybody get the difference?!” is more aggressive and “know-it-all” while “Everybody get the difference!?” is most importantly more loud and not that different from “Everybody get the difference?”.

Paragraphs. I just read an article claiming that people in the Netherlands use more paragraphs then is customary in English. I think that is true, seeing that I use more than usual on cgtalk for instance, but I also think that it makes a text more easily readable and pleasing for the eye. Actually in my language there is a name for the white in between the paragraphs. I couldn’t find a English term on short notice and it wasn’t in my dictionary, so I will be referring to those as a “white line”(literally translated) Note that this is something different than a “hard return” (from computer terminology) because you end up with a empty line in between the paragraphs and not just start on a new line.

These “white lines” are very important to keeping your text easy to read and organized exactly the way you like it. But it is also an important tool to slow down your readers. The eye does travel across a white line and mostly this is seen as being the end of a point you have made. It doesn’t have to be an end… you can simply create a “white line” after any sentence you want your reader to think about.
If the comma is the little brother and the micro break then the “white line” is the big brother of the point and can be seen as a normal break. There are two steps beyond this one: the double white line and the page turn. Which are both a bigger time delay and should be treated as such.
Bottom line: use a new paragraph and a white line more often than not. Keep your text organized and easy to read. If you have a white line between two actions or characters they are more apart then when you only have a “hard return”.

All this was mostly text specific however you can easily make the conversion from white line (text) to blackout (movie), point (text) to cut(movie) and comma (text) to focus change (movie).
Now we are entering the realm of storytelling once again and I start by defining slow and fast.

Here is the film resemblance already. when watching film your seeing 25-32 images a second and they seem to move. Now if you want something to go quicker on film… what do you do?
Right you cut some images out and suddenly the object seems to go quicker. For slower you do the opposite… you need more images per second to make something go slower.

So the same applies to a story… If you want something to go quick use less words, but also less description, less action, less everything. Just put down what happens. Lets get right into this with an example;

First the normal version:

Maria was walking up the stairs of her house with the fruit basket. When suddenly the pineapple, that was on top of the fruit, tumbled from the fruit basket. Thinking about her tapestry, Maria panicked and tried to catch it with one hand but had to let go of the basket to do so. Then the basket was unstable and began to wobble. While trying to keep hold of the basket, her hand shot out and caught the pineapple mid-air. But then it happened, she couldn’t hold the basket and all the fruit bounced down the steps.

Then the fast version:

Maria was walking up the stairs with the fruit basket. Suddenly the pineapple,tumbled from the top . Maria thought about her tapestry and panicked. Her hand shot out and caught the pineapple mid-air. However she couldn’t hold the basket in one hand and all the fruit fell onto the stairs.

And the slow version:

Maria was walking up the stairs of her house with the fruit basket. When suddenly the pineapple began to rock back and forth. And as the normal reaction is in this case, Maria tried to compensate. She tilted the basket but overshot her goal. the pineapple now had so much velocity that it would go over no matter what. Maria saw it happening. She heard the dull smash as the pineapple landed and saw the rich juice stair her carpet. That was something she should prevent at all costs. Without thinking further her hand let go of the side of the basket and reached out. As all of this took Maria only nanoseconds the pineapple was still falling. She was almost there, she could feel the shell of the pineapple But now something else was happening. Out of the corner of her eye she saw the fruit basket tilt and felt she couldn’t hold it much longer. her hand worked on autopilot the fingers closed and came up trying to bring rescue to its counterpart trying to keep the fruit basket upright. Maria had all her attention now on the basket… she had temporarily forgotten about the pineapple. Only remembering when the pineapple hit the fruit basket tipping it over without any hope of rescue. The oranges where the first to go, then the grapes followed by the mandarins and the lonely pear. Underneath there where two apples who also joined in the leap to freedom. Making thuds and smashes, and one of the mandarin even seemed to splash a little, the fruit landed on the stairs and bounced gently down all the eleven steps to finally come to rest on the wooden floor below.

Note that in these texts I not only tried to show you the rule just mentioned but I have also put the techniques of the first part to use.

The first thing you must know about actually doing this is how fast your writing style is. Since like everything in life this is also relative. If you write fast the whole story through nobody is going to notice that you meant it to be fast… because they have no reference. so when you use fast and slow remember to work with contrast. If you go from slow to fast; fast looks faster. And the same thing works the other way around as well.

Now problems: If you are writing something that is action packed and fast a lot of details get lost in the mix. This is because you simply don’t have time to show them in (read: tell about them) This is kind of crippling because if you go to fast people might lose track or interest because everything just happens.
The problem with going slow is the extra information. It has to come from somewhere and it is hard to think of useful stuff to tell. The over expanding rule is don’t show/write/tell the things that don’t matter. The extra fluff to create the illusion of slow time has to deepen the plot, deepen the characters or strengthen the bond between the story and the audience.

And this is why this lesson is now and not later: These problems don’t only occur now but during the whole writing process. A good build-up is a slow one… a good climax goes rather quick. The beginning differs and the end is usually normal speed or slow. This means that if you practise to get from a to b (falling pineapple t catch) while going through d, c, g and z thrown in and occasionally mention m, o and j then you know you can probably write a good story because then you have thought about all the things that happen around what is actually happening.
Most people, I know I do, write rather fast when they jot something down. Our layout was done that way for example. But when you are writing full fledged stories people want to be swept away and know feelings and fears, sounds and smells. So you have to train yourself in slowing down when you are writing.
The kind of corny thing here is to use the text as your brush and the imagination of your readers as your canvas, but it is actually true. And if you can create memorable images within the imagination of your audience you are good to go and have fans in no time.

So remember to slow down, notice things others don’t, mention thoughts and feelings and fears characters might have. And try to make an image that is memorable or stirs up maternal feelings within your audience.

I hope you enjoyed this lesson and I will be back during the weekend with the next lesson: Tailoring to your audience.
I just finished planning everything up to writing the start of my story which will be 4 lessons away from now unless something comes up that I must address first. I hope you will still be with me then.

I wish you all some good days ahead filled with the things you find fascinating about life!!


#20

Hi, I just wanted to share this:

Yesterday when I posted there where 390 views…
Now there are 626 views…

What happened? Is this thread recognized by schools to teach their pupil how the write or is it read by alien invaders who always wanted to find out why we create stories…?

Or is it one guy reading the text, getting busted by his boss… and then reading it again and again, one paragraph at a time, closing his browser window everytime to avoid suspicion?

Keep tuned to find out… (Actually don’t because I have no clue. So I’ll stick to my schedule with lessons. Unless I find out. If anyone knows what happened please confine in us the solution!!)

See you later people!