Our First Class on Story – October 21, 2019
What is Story?
Story: a narrative, either true or fictitious, in prose or verse, designed to interest, amuse, or instruct the hearer or reader; a tale.
Before writing a story we need to think how we want to write it. Who is telling this story? Who are they speaking to?
Points of View
You don’t know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; but that ain’t no matter. That book was made by Mr. Mark Twain, and he told the truth, mainly. There was things which he stretched, but mainly he told the truth. That is nothing. I never seen anybody but lied one time or another, without it was Aunt Polly, or the widow, or maybe Mary. Aunt Polly–Tom’s Aunt Polly, she is–and Mary, and the Widow Douglas is all told about in that book, which is mostly a true book, with some stretchers, as I said before.
Second Person is used in some stories, but mostly for giving directions:
Here are examples of writing in second person in do-it yourself or how-to writing:
- To make lemonade, you add the juice of lemons to water and sugar.
- You need to prepare a wall before applying primer.
- When getting rid of a drain clog, first turn off the water.
- To calculate the area of a room, multiply the width by the length.
- You should use masking tape to hold a window pane in place before applying glazing compounds.
- To add oil to your car engine, unscrew the cap, place a funnel inside, and slowly add the oil.
- The first person, on the other hand, would read “To make lemonade, I add the juice of lemons to water and sugar.” The third person would say “To make lemonade, he or she adds…”
Second Person Writing in Advertising
Advertising slogans are many times written in second person. Here are some examples:
- AMX – It’s Your World. Take Control”
- Burger King – Have it your way
- Bowers & Wilkins – Listen and You Will See
- Cadence – How Big Can You Dream?
- MetLife – Have you met your life today?
- Olympus – Your vision. Our future
- Southwestern Bell Yellow Pages – Let your fingers do the walking
- Hallmark – When you care enough to send the very best
- California Milk Processor Board – Got Milk?
- Verizon Wireless – Can You Hear Me Now? Good
- Dell Computer – Get More out of Now
- Electronic Arts – Challenge everything
- Lego – Play on
- Nike – Just do it
- Skittles – Taste the rainbow
- United Airlines – Fly the friendly skies.
2nd Person in Speeches
- “My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” – John F. Kennedy
- “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” – Mahatma Gandhi
- “Do not take life too seriously. You will never get out of it alive.” – Elbert Hubbard
- “Hitch your wagon to a star.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
- “If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.” – Henry David Thoreau
The fat boy lowered himself over the terrace and sat down carefully, using the edge as a seat.
“I’m sorry I been such a time. Them fruit —-”
He wiped his glasses and adjusted them on his button nose. The frame had made a deep, pink “V” on the bridge. He looked critically at Ralph’s golden body and then down at his own clothes. He laid a hand on the end of a zipper that extended down his chest.
“My auntie —-“
Then he opened the zipper with decision and pulled the whole wind-breaker over his head.
Ralph looked at him side-long and said nothing.
“I expect we will want to know all their names,” said the fat boy, “and make a list. We ought to have a meeting.”
Ralph did not take the hint so the fat boy was forced to continue.
“I don’t care what they call me,” he said confidentially, “so long as they don’t call me what they used to call me at school.”
Ralph was fairly interested.
“What was that?”
The fat boy glanced over his shoulder, then leaned towards Ralph.
“They used to call me ‘Piggy’.”
Ralph shrieked with laughter. He jumped up.
“Ralph – please!”
Piggy clasped his hands in apprehension.
“I said I didn’t want —-“
Ralph danced out into the hot air of the beach and then returned as a fighter-plane, with wings swept back, and machine-gunned Piggy.
He dived in the sand at Piggy’s feet and lay there laughing.
Piggy grinned reluctantly, pleased despite himself at even this much recognition.
“So long as you don’t tell the others —-“
Ralph giggled into the sand. The expression of pain and concentration returned to Piggy’s face.
Excerpts from “Dracula,″ the unabridged text by Bram Stoker, published in 1897:
“Hitherto I had noticed the backs of his hands as they lay on his knees in the firelight, and they had seemed rather white and fine; but seeing them now close to me, I could not but notice that they were rather coarse, broad with squat fingers. The nails were long and fine, and cut to a sharp point. As the Count leaned over me and his hands touched me, I could not repress a shudder. It may have been that his breath was rank, but a horrible feeling of nausea came over me, which, do what I would, I could not conceal. The Count, evidently noticing it, drew back; and with a grim sort of smile, which showed more than he had yet done his protuberant teeth, sat himself down again on his own side of the fireplace.
From the Journal of Jonathan Harker
Are there other ways to write a story?
In Class Reading!
“They’re Made out of Meat”
By Terry Bisson
Types of writing:
Fiction, NonFiction, Creative NonFiction, Poetry, and Journalism
Do they have/need stories?
What does a story need to be a story?
Every story needs characters, but that doesn’t mean every story needs people. Whoever, or whatever, you choose use as characters, they need to go through conflict. Which means, many times, you’ll need more than one character.
Before you start writing, know your characters well, but don’t start loving them too much. Be as mean as possible to your characters.
Your main character should be someone readers can feel something in common with, or at least care about. And then do bad things to them.
Examples from movies, games, books?
You don’t have to describe a character completely. It’s enough to say one or two things about how a character looks or moves or speaks.
A main character should have at least one flaw or weakness. Perfect characters are not very interesting. They’re also harder to feel something in common with or care about. And they don’t have anything to learn. In the same way, there should be at least one good thing about a “bad guy.”
Plot is most often about a conflict or struggle that the main character goes through. The conflict can be with another character, or with the way things are, or with something inside the character, like needs or feelings.
The main character should win or lose at least partly on their own, and not just be rescued by someone or something else. Most often, the character learns or grows as they try to solve their problem. What the character learns is the theme.
The conflict should get more and more tense or exciting. The tension should reach a high point or “climax” near the end of the story, then ease off.
The basic steps of a plot are: conflict begins, things go right, things go WRONG, final victory (or defeat), and wrap-up. The right-wrong steps can repeat.
A novel can have several conflicts, but a short story should have only one.
At the beginning, jump right into the action. At the end, wind up the story quickly.
Decide about writing the story either in “first person” or in “third person.” Third-person pronouns are “he,” “she,” and “it”—so writing in third person means telling a story as if it’s all about other people. The first-person pronoun is “I”—so writing in first person means telling a story as if it happened to you.
Even if you write in third person, try to tell the story through the eyes of just one character—most likely the main character. Don’t tell anything that the character wouldn’t know. This is called “point of view.” If you must tell something else, create a whole separate section with the point of view of another character.
Decide about writing either in “present tense” or in “past tense.” Writing in past tense means writing as if the story already happened. That is how most stories are written. Writing in present tense means writing as if the story is happening right now. Stick to one tense or the other!
Set your story in a place and time that will be interesting or familiar.
Style and Tone
Use language that feels right for your story.
Wherever you can, use actions and speech to let readers know what’s happening. Show, don’t tell.
You don’t have to write fancy to write well. It almost never hurts to use simple words and simple sentences. That way, your writing is easy to read and understand.
Always use the best possible word—the one that is closest to your meaning, sounds best, and creates the clearest image. If you can’t think of the right one, use a thesaurus.
Carefully check each word, phrase, sentence, and paragraph. Is it the best you can write? Is it in the right place? Do you need it at all? If not, take it out!
So, now after all of that, what is a story?
In Class Exercise!
Six Word Stories:
the six-word story, it’s said, came from a ten-dollar bet Hemingway made at a lunch with some other writers that he could write a novel in six words. After penning the famous line on a napkin, he passed it around the table, and collected his winnings.
What was his story? Here it is:
For sale, Baby shoes, Never worn.
Let’s look at some other 6 word stories:
Computer, did we bring batteries? Computer?
– Eileen Gunn
Automobile warranty expires. So does engine.
– Stan Lee
Machine. Unexpectedly, I’d invented a time
– Alan Moore
Longed for him. Got him. Sh*t.
– Margaret Atwood
From torched skyscrapers, men grew wings.
– Gregory Maguire
Internet “wakes up?” Ridicu –
– Charles Stross
With bloody hands, I say good-bye.
– Frank Miller
Wasted day. Wasted life. Dessert, please.
– Steven Meretzky
It cost too much, staying human.
– Bruce Sterling
We kissed. She melted. Mop please!
– James Patrick Kelly
It’s behind you! Hurry before it
– Rockne S. O’Bannon
To save humankind he died again.
– Ben Bova
TIME MACHINE REACHES FUTURE!!! … nobody there …
– Harry Harrison
Thought I was right. I wasn’t.
– Graeme Gibson
Lost, then found. Too bad.
– Graeme Gibson
Dinosaurs return. Want their oil back.
– David Brin
Bang postponed. Not Big enough. Reboot.
– David Brin
Will this do (lazy writer asked)?
– Ken MacLeod
Let’s write our own stories
Share 6 Word Stories
Expand your 6 Word Story.
Write a scene:
- Decide what point of view to use
- Create your characters
- Give them conflict
- Create a setting
- Write at least 1 page into your story
- Add some dialogue between characters
- One character wants something
- Another character is keeping them from getting it