Crystal started our creative juices flowing with a fun, verbal exercise: Create a crime story, with each participant serially contributing one line to the story. Here’s what I was able to capture of the story:
- Sam dropped the knife from his hand, stunned at what he had just done.
- The blood seeped outward onto the carpet from the body.
- He hadn’t thought he would end up like this.
- How would he cover this up, he was too young to go to jail.
- As the door slowly opened, he looked, furtively, wondering what he should do next.
- It suddenly struck him that the taxi driver that borught him here would be a liability
- He surveyed the room, looking for some means to cover his tracks.
- He wondered why he allowed Sally to aggravate him so at the gathering dinner.
- The door slammed opened and his fiance walked in.
- He looked at Sally, then the knife, then the blood then at Sally again and he knew what he needed to do.
- Sally asked the unanswered question, “Why had it taken so long?”
- He could only stare at her in blunt shock.
- Finally he told her he had been waiting for the perfect opportunity; he had the perfect alibi.
- After all, …. (Heather’s really long sentence…)
- There was laughter down the hall. Some children peeked in.
- Sally began to see what had really happened.
- She shooed the children away and closed the door.
- Sam picked up the knife and looked at her and then looked at himself.
- Sally said, “Go wash your hands, get rid of the knife and I’ll roll up the body in the carpet.”
Crystal then showed us: When you don’t have an outline, the story can quickly get unwieldy.
We started with Sam as our main character, but introduced Sally (who might have been the victim but then became the fiancee). As props, we had the blood, the knife; and the children.
There was a good unexpected lightening of the story: laughter. This helped the story not become too suspenseful.
Points of View
Other prep sessions (last year) focused on: Plot, setting, scene, characters, outline. One topic that was missing was how to hande point of view (POV).
It’s important to think about narrative voice: you can add suspense/interest by who the narrator is.
You can think of POV as a continuum:
Internal ------------------------------------------------ External stimuli thoughts date feelings setting ideas motives
The most successful spot is (usually) thought to be in the middle
- Third person restricted
- most common (he/she)
- Narrator doesn’t have to be a character in the story.
- Character knows what they are thinking but can only guess what others are thinking
- godlike – aloof, historical, objective POV (narrow)
- will shift from place to place
- neutral, factual, don’t go into the personal perspective
- often in the third person; knows everything
- Second person
- “You”: is the reader
- difficult to pull out over the course of time
- if multiple perspectives, one could be “You”
- Pure dramatization
- not a POV specifically
- lot of dialogue, minimal narration
- looks like stage direction
- Multiple viewpoints
- You want to make going to that viewpoint worthwhile
- It needs to add something to the story, suspense, motive of characters
- Show what is going on.
- Skeptical POV
- Different people in different roles in a trial; the Judge would be objective; defendant, first person; defense lawyer would be skeptical (you don’t believe the credibility of the other person).
- Can be first person or third person
- Being skeptical can oppose the suspense that carries the story along
- Want a balance of tension (introduce it and then diffuse it)
Some helpful exercises:
- change the POV for something that you’ve written.
- write a scene from one of your character’s POV
Write a page/half a page to do the view
- Parental divorce from a 4 year old POV
- A dance party from three locations
- An embarrassing incident – first person
- A crime story/@ the trial – defense lawyer skeptical
- A crime story at trial presiding judge objective
- Looking at your story from a different perspective helps you move the plot along; also helps with setting and using different senses to create a scene.
- If you’re stuck, this is a good way to get into a scene. A way of unsticking yourself.
- Different physical locations can bring energy.
- First person doesn’t have to be more emotional.
- Felt weird to include all the details; when you’re living through the experience, you’re not thinking of them.
- Writing to a deadline helps you get to the point.
- Writing embarrassing stuff feels more embarrassing when it is happening than 10-20 years later.
- Challenge of writing from a four year old POV: difficult to get into it.
- Vocabulary limitations. “Where’s Daddy.”
- Good to pull out different perspectives: helps.
- CreativeWritingPrompts.com: This site offers more than 300 creative writing prompts.
- BabyNames.com: This site has cool name lists, popular name lists and an enormous database that allows you to search for boy names, girl names and names that start with a specific letter.
- FirstWriter.com: The site offers several search engines to help you find publishers, agents and writing contests. Other nice features include detailed information about copyright law, writing tips and writing tools.
- Internet Public Library: The Internet Public Library provides free access to reference materials that every writer can use. Some of the things you can reference on this site include books, magazines, newspapers, almanacs, dictionaries, thesauri, encyclopedias and style guides.
- Just About Write: The creative writing section of Just About Write is filled with thought provoking articles on plot, character, themes and other aspects of creative writing. The site also offers tips on how to sell your writing, advice on how to market yourself and lists of resources for writers.
- Wikipedia has a lot of information.
- BehindTheName is a really good naming site. Caution from Heather:
Be aware: Name meanings are largely made up.
- Our own wiki: http://naperwrimo.org/wiki – has a lot of resources
- The NaNoWriMo Reference Desk, including a link to the Reference Desk forum. Also see the 2006 version of this forum (Character and Plot Realism).
- Aurora Public Library and the Naperville Public Library: good sources of information and possible librarian help.
- google docs: Benefit of google documents: Word processor, spreadsheet, accessible from anywhere. Keep your work saved on more than one location.
- dropbox.com – get 2 Gb free online storage.