Beginning The Story Before The Beginning

Where, then, do you start your narrative of consequential events involving worthy human characters Usually, you begin just before the beginning. This is not as contradictory as it sounds. If you look at a man's life in its entirety, there will be high spots and low spots, good times and bad. You will select from that life one particular story to tell, say the time your subject got fired from Bromberg & Bromberg and went into business for himself. You choose this story to tell because it is,...

Choosing A Viewpoint

When you sit down to begin your novel, you slip a sheet of paper into your typewriter or turn on your word processor. You next take out your notes, your character biographies, and your stepsheet you put your premise up in neon on the wall and you think you're ready to go. But then you find you can't write a single paragraph because you don't know what viewpoint to use. Knowing what the various options are first-person, omniscient, limited omniscient, objective does not necessarily make the...

Finding Your Premise

The germinal idea for a story may be anything. A feeling. An image. A vague recollection of a heartthrob you almost danced with at your high-school prom twenty years ago. Or it might be a person you once met on a bus, or your old Uncle Wilmont who drank too much. It might be a what if. What if a Martian were elected president What if a bag lady found a million bucks What if a great swimmer became a paraplegic A germinal idea might be nothing more than a vague feeling that a story can be made...

Getting Along Without A Good Group

What if you can't find a destructive group, and you have neither the energy nor inclination to form one of your own You have to become your own critic and try to get your friends to help. One way to get the truth out of your friends, however reluctant they may be to give it, is to tell them the manuscript was written by someone else. Tell them you've agreed to critique it for a close friend and you just don't know what to say. You need help. This relieves your friends of the moral burden to be...

How To Make A Good Exchange Of Dialogue Out Of A Notsogood

Most fiction writers write rough drafts of their book, then work it over. Especially their dialogue. After you've written an exchange of dialogue, look it over and ask yourself the following questions about each line Can it be said better indirectly Is the line as clever and colorful as it can be The following exchange takes place between Lucy and her husband Joe on the night he comes home after being fired as a purchasing agent. He doesn't want to tell Lucy, because their baby is due in three...

Info

THE TYRANNY OF THE PREMISE, OR, WRITING A STORY WITHOUT A PREMISE IS LIKE ROWING A BOAT WITHOUT OARS Think of a premise as the love in a marriage. Think of a premise as the abracadabra that puts the rabbit into the hat. Think of a premise as the steel in reinforced concrete. Think ofa premise as the E mc2 of novel writing. It is the reason you are writing what you are writing. It is the point you have to prove. It is the raison d' tre of your novel. It is the core, the heart, the center, the...

Objective Viewpoint

When the narrator is outside the characters at all times, writing as if he were a reporter, he is writing in objective viewpoint. The narrator describes the actions of the characters as if he were, say, watching a play. Here is an example Joe awoke at three in the morning. He got up, went to the medicine chest, poured himself three fingers of something that fizzed, waited for it to stop bubbling, and drank it down holding his nose. Then he got dressed, loaded his shotgun, put it under his...

Omniscient Viewpoint

If the narrator reveals what is going on in all the characters' heads, the story is in omniscient viewpoint. This is, of course, the most subjective of all possible viewpoints. Omniscient viewpoint was extremely popular in the Victorian novel. The main concern of the Victorian novelist was society it was thought best to have access to everyone's thoughts and motives in order to create a clear and total picture of society. Victorian novelists would often reveal the thoughts of any and all...

Premise And Selectivity

Selectivity choosing what to include and what to omit in a novel is an important part of the writer's work. A writer is exercising good selectivity when he leaves out scenes, descriptions, characters, and dialogue that the story can do without. When a writer exercises good selectivity, the reader perceives the story as being tight. When the writer exercises poor selectivity, the reader perceives the story as being bloated. Knowing your premise will allow you to know the difference. To...

Premises That Work And Those That Dont

In chapter 1 a detective story was discussed. It involved a young detective named Boyer Bennington Mitchell who was out to prove himself the equal of his hard-boiled father. Boyer was going to solve a crime perpetrated by a woman who murdered her husband to spare her family the disgrace of his being exposed as a dope dealer. What is the premise of this story How about the truth wills out Well The murderess gets caught in the end and her crime is exposed, right The truth does will out. Isn't...

Prose Values Beyond The Senses

Dynamic prose has certain properties that can be infused into limp and pallid prose to give it strength, vigor, and color. For example, good prose has time woven into its tapestry She looked out over the barren, gray prairie where Chief Running Bear had met his death, and where the Seventh Cavalry had slaughtered a thousand squaws in a single day, and she was overcome with a profound sadness. Then someone said, Soup's on, and she turned and walked back across the sand-colored flagstones of the...

The Abcs Of Storytelling

Little Red Riding Hood goes into the woods, meets the wolf, takes a short cut to grandma's, meets the wolf again, says My, what big teeth you have, and the woodcutter comes and chops up the wolf. A narrative of events is a simple recounting or retelling of something that happened, either in the real world, or in a fictional world. The story of Little Red Riding Hood is clearly a narrative of events. It is also a narrative of events when the old man goes out to...

The Alternatives

If you choose not to begin before the beginning, not to depict the status quo situation, you are faced with the problem of simultaneously introducing the character and the dilemma he's facing, then filling the reader in on the character's status quo situation later. Say you choose to begin your story at the exact moment of the beginning, the moment of the firing Joe held the pink slip in his hand, feeling an icy chill run up his spine. He looked across the desk at the boss, who was staring back...

The Commandments Of Dynamic Prose

There are three commandments of dynamic prose. They are The following is a nonspecific description, the kind we all write on the first draft When Mrs. Applegate arrived at the terminal, the train had already left. She paced back and forth on the platform, trying to figure out what to do. There were other stations down the line perhaps she could make it to one of them in time to catch up with the train. She asked a cab driver. He shook his head. No way, he said. It can't be done. She paced some...

What To Do When The Job Is Done

You will know when your novel is finished. You will feel like throwing up whenever you look at it. You will be at the point where further rewrite just changes things around it no longer makes the novel better. Only different. Now the thing to do is have it copy-edited by a grammarian who can spell, and have it professionally typed. There is a standard way to prepare and mail a manuscript, which is described in several books you can find at your local library. The most popular is Writer's...

Writers Groups And How To Use Them

You'll find writers' groups everywhere. Writers come together like geese. It's part of their natures. There are basically three kinds of writers' groups puff, literary, and destructive. A puff group is fun to belong to. Whenever anyone reads a work, the criticism goes like this I loved the image of the flower growing up through the swimming pool. I loved every one of your characters more than I love my mother. Oh yes, and the green tortoise on the tie was a wonderful controlling metaphor. This...

Climax Premise Resolution And How Not To Get It All Confused

The ending of a story is often described in terms of climax and resolution as if they were two separate entities. But the boundaries of the climax and those of the resolution are impossible to determine in most cases. The climax might be thought of as a point, a moment, the precise instant the reader perceives that the core conflict is settled. That precise moment might be when Godzilla is killed, when the heroine says yes to the marriage proposal, when the winning point is scored, when the...

What Counts Most And It Aint Talent

We are all something else besides novelists, but if you are not a novelist in your heart, at your core, you are a dilettante and should not bother trying to be a novelist. Being a novelist is not just a matter of reading a book of technique and fiddling around at your typewriter putting little blotches of ink on paper. If you were to list the qualities a person needs to become a novelist, what would you put first A college education Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, and Daniel...

The Magic Of Identification The Greatest Trick Of

Fiction gives us insight into other people as no other medium can. When we read fiction we participate in the lives of others at a much deeper level than when we read, say, a newspaper account. In fiction, we are intimate with the characters. Fiction can be more real to the reader than reality itself because fiction is the essence of life. In a fictional story, the reader is brought into the inner experience of the characters. If the writer is skilled enough, the reader will...

Foreshadowing

Foreshadowing is so important that Lajos Egri in The Art of Dramatic Writing makes it a type of conflict, along with static, jumping, and slowly rising. Foreshadowing is not actually conflict, but rather the promise of conflict. Joe got out of bed, ate breakfast, loaded his gun, and set out for town. This is foreshadowing because the reader thinks, What's the loaded gun for A story question has been raised. Foreshadowing is the art of raising story questions. If the story questions are slight,...

Dialogue Direct And Indirect Inspired And Uninspired

Mary looked up from the book she was reading. Hi, she said. Joe shuffled his feet nervously. He was sure everyone in the school cafeteria was looking at him. What ya doin' he asked. Joe sat down. He ran his finger around his collar to wipe away the sweat trickling down his neck. Ah, I've got to ask you something, he said. Er, have you got a date for the prom I wasn't going to go to the prom. Gee, everyone goes to the prom. How'd you like to go with me Hmmm. I'll think about it, okay Don't think...

Modified Objective Viewpoint

One way to achieve more intimacy is through modified objective viewpoint. In modified objective viewpoint, the narrator does not claim to know the character's inner workings, but makes guesses about them. Sometimes the guesses prove wrong, resulting in what has been called an unreliable narrator. In other words, in modified objective viewpoint the narrator describes honestly what is going on, what any sensible observer would see, and draws the same conclusions as the reader would. As long as...

Firstperson Subjective Viewpoint

The first-person narrator is always writing from a subjective viewpoint . The first-person narrator has access to one character, the narrator, who is himself a character in the story. He may be the protagonist, the antagonist, or any other character. In Cuckoos Nest the story is narrated by the Chief, a minor character. Lolita is narrated by the protagonist, Humbert Humbert. First-person narrative has many attractions, especially for the beginning novelist. A beginner often feels comfortable...

The Fine Art Of Flashbacking

The flashback is the most misused and overworked device in fiction writing. Readers are totally absorbed by what happens next. That is one way storytelling works its magic. The author gets the reader interested in a character and situation, plunges the characters into conflict, and soon the reader is caught up in the characters' lives. The reader can't wait to find out how the mess the author got the characters into is going to turn out. Say Sam Smoot, your hero, is finally coming to terms with...

The Uses Of The Stepsheet

There are no formal rules for making up a stepsheet. Some writers put in a great amount of detail others make theirs sketchy and thin. It is up to the author. The purpose of the stepsheet is to keep events in a progressive cause-and-effect order, A-B-C-D-E-F, and so on, and to chart the growth and development of the characters. Can you decide to change the stepsheet later on for instance, when you are three-quarters through the first draft What if you get to the scene where the patrol is pinned...

Rising To The Climax Or The Proof Of The Pudding Is In The Premise

Think of a climax as the target and the rest of your story as the flight of the arrow. Think of a climax as the other shore toward which you are building the bridge of your book. Think of a climax as the goal line where the winning touchdown is made. Think of a climax as the knockout punch of the heavyweight prizefight of your novel. A story is a question mark a climax, an exclamation A story is tension a climax, satisfaction. A story is the face-off, the quick draw, the pull of the trigger the...

James N Frey

Copyright 1987 by James N. Frey. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. For information, address St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Frey, James N. 1. Fiction Technique. I. Title....

The Pattern Of Resolving Conflict

Conflict that comes after the climax, after the core conflict is settled, is resolving conflict. In a story, the conflicts grow and intensify, the stakes rise, and the situation becomes more desperate up to the climactic moment. This is rising conflict. Then pow the climax. Now, the conflicts that follow have the opposite pattern. The storm is receding the intensity is lessening rather than increasing. An event is anticlimactic if it has a rising conflict and comes after the core conflict is...

Viewpoint Defined

WHEN the author is describing a character and writes, Marvin hated three things stale donuts, his wife's meatloaf, and Republicans, he is revealing the character's viewpoint. A character's viewpoint is the combination of his collective opinions, prejudices, tastes, and attitudes. His viewpoint defines how the character interprets the world. The character's viewpoint grows out of his particular sociology, physiology, and psychology. Viewpoint also refers to what might be called the locus of...

The Three Cs Of Premise

There is no formula for constructing premises, but according to Egri, every good premise should contain an element of character which through conflict leads to a conclusion. A coward goes to war and becomes a hero. A brave man goes into battle and becomes a coward. Samson has his hair cut and loses his great powers, but he gets them back. When you formulate your premise, remember the three C's character, conflict, and conclusion. A dramatic story is the transformation of character through...

The Unconscious Writer

Shocking as it may seem, some theorists don't believe in the concept of premise. One of them is Kenneth MacGowan who, in A Primer ofPlaywriting 1951 , explains Egri's theory of premise in some detail, but then says, I suppose it finding your premise is merely a harmless little exercise in the manufacture of bromides all it amounts to is saying a good play will have a moral message. MacGowan has come to this conclusion because of the many writers who sell fiction by the truckload but have never...

Proving The Premise Of The Character

Each major character in a story has his own fate. Therefore, each character has a premise of his own. If you are proving in your story that the big lie brings ruin, one character may be a liar that does not mean all the characters must be liars. It simply means that one lie brings ruin. Michael Corleone's ruling passion in The Godfather is love of his family. His love leads him to become the Don the ruler of the family's illegal business despite the fact that he is morally opposed to the...

Incident And Character How Each Grows Out Of The Other

Aristotle said in The Poetics that the length of a drama should be such that the hero passes by a series of probable or necessary stages from misfortune to happiness, or from happiness to misfortune. Twenty-three centuries later, Egri says the same thing when he insists that a character should grow from pole to pole. A coward becomes brave, a lover becomes an enemy, a saint becomes a sinner this is growth from pole to pole. When you plan your novel you will need to plan not only the incidents,...

Premise Defined

If you wished to make an argument, say, that dogs make better pets than cats, how would you go about proving it You would argue that dogs are friendlier, more trainable, more likeable, more agreeable, and so on. You would include all the good things you can think of about dogs and all the bad things about cats. Even if you knew any good things about cats, you would exclude them, because it would be contrary to your argument. The premise of an argument is the statement of the conclusion that...

Story About With Dialogs Of Dramatic Storytelling

WHAT IT'S ALL ABOUT IS WHO 1 What's the who Subspecies of Homo Fictus. Creating wonderfully rounded characters, or, how to play God. Making characters sizzle. Building character from the ground up the fictional biography. Interviewing a character, or, getting to know him the easy way. At the character's core the ruling passion, and how to find it. The steadfast protagonist, heartbeat of the dramatic novel. Stereotyped characters and how to avoid them. Character maximum capacity and the would...

Limited Omniscient Viewpoint

The modernized version of omniscient viewpoint is limited omniscient viewpoint, a very powerful technique indeed. Limited omniscient viewpoint works like this the author claims the right to go into the heads only of certain characters and not others. These selected characters, usually the protagonist and two or three others, are called viewpoint characters. While the narrator is in the head of a character, because of the magic of identification, the reader is living that character's life....