Archive for January, 2017

How do unsuccessful novel writers build houses? Editorial Opinion

Tuesday, January 31st, 2017
William H. Coles

You get a backhoe and dig a BIG hole. You back up a cement truck and pour three BIG mounds of cement. While cement hardens, you cut down two giant oaks, strip the leaves and throw the trunks with limbs in the big hole on top of the cement. You pour, 100 gallons of glue, a quarter ton of bolts and nails, five porcelain toilets, and three bathtubs. You add 800 light bulbs of various sizes throughout the growing muddle. You mix three hundred gallons of paint in different, preferable incompatible (noncliché) colors, and splash the paint at random over all you’ve assembled. Let the mess simmer for five months during a horribly hot summer, if possible. Add 3800 roof tiles–no need to remove from the packaging. Voila! A house.

Whats the point? Authors of literary stories need to be in control of their thinking and their imagination and then create story by mastering the elements of fiction prose and storytelling. Here are three of the important ideas to conquer:

*Structure–beginning, middle, and end.
Writers need structure, an overall outline that directs happenings, action, emotional arcs, and prioritizes ideas and timing of information transfer. Literary stories have images and movement that are delivered logically structured on a timeline. Author ideas and thoughts generated by chance and randomly applied to story, no matter the quality of idea or thought, are not as effective as imagined elements structured into coherent, logical web the supports story momentum.

Fiction writers need altruism and must: not write for fame and fortune, not write to be published to claim “author” at social gatherings, but write to engage, entertain, and enlighten readers by creating and telling a story well and building characters specific for story understanding and meaning.

*Creativity and imagination.
Writers need to imagine and create, not remember and describe. Imagination for fiction does not come from sitting alone in a dark, sound proof, unheated room until memories emerge from author life experiences like sea creatures from a peat bog. In fiction, scenes are imagined that move the plot, build characters consistent with the timeline, and relate to purpose and theme of the story. Authors who default to their own worldview and life experiences often fail to reach advantages of imagined fiction available to the world beyond self.

*”The Miracle of Madame Villard” is the story of a boy on a mission to find a cure for his dying mother. Set in the 18th century France, the story and all elements of story are imagined. You can read it online free.
The Miracle of Madame Villard

If you find these ideas ring true, WOULD YOU SHARE THIS POST? LITERARY (character-based dramatic plots, theme and meaning, unique characterization) FICTION (imagined) needs writers who train in traditional successful literary techniques. I’m trying to spread the word.

You could SHARE THIS LINK too for original story examples, essays, interviews, a workshop, and illustrations. (free)
And thanks.

Ferreting out MacGuffins in a literary-fiction story Article About Writing Better

Tuesday, January 31st, 2017
William H. Coles

This down and out musician has broken up with his girl in New Orleans so he pockets his blues harmonica, drags his guitar behind him, and plods on the road to Yazoo City, Mississippi, to find a gig. He’s miles away on a back road in a poverty-infested rural countryside when a girl about seven appears and offers him a wad of chewing gum she takes from her mouth with thumb and forefinger. He politely declines but to respond to her generosity, he plays a tune, Empty Bed Blues, on his harmonica. She’s unimpressed. During a doze, the girl grabs his harmonica and runs off. He follows her into a ramshackle two-room paint-peeling-gray clapboard-house where her mother lies on her back on a bare mattress, both legs bent at the knees, her bloated abdomen contracting and showing a matted-hair football-shaped blob with each labor contraction. Damn, it’s about to arrive. Our hero has never seen a baby come out.

Wikipedia tells us: “In fiction a MACGUFFIN (sometimes McGuffin or maguffin) is a plot device in the form of some goal, desired object, or other motivator that the protagonist pursues, often with little or no narrative explanation. The specific nature of a MacGuffin is typically unimportant to the overall plot. The most common type of MacGuffin is a person, place, or thing (such as money or an object of value). Other more abstract types include victory, glory, survival, power, love, or some unexplained driving force.”

“The MacGuffin technique is common in films, especially thrillers. Usually the MacGuffin is the central focus of the film in the first act, and thereafter declines in importance. It may reappear at the climax of the story but sometimes is actually forgotten . . .”

Okay. Thanks Wikipedia. In our story, the harmonica is a plot device, a MacGuffin. But fiction writers crave significance. So how does a plot device become a symbol? Let’s look to Wiki again; now things get a little wonky: “SYMBOLS are the basis of all human understanding and serve as vehicles of conception for all human knowledge. Symbols facilitate understanding of the world in which we live, thus serving as the grounds upon which we make judgments. In this way, people use symbols . . . to make sense of the world around them . . .” Okay Wiki. Symbols impart meaning about people and the world. Let’s explore more.

Two older couples are on tour in India, one married, the other in a relationship. The married woman wears an extravagant diamond necklace inappropriate on a tour through a poverty-stricken country, a symbol of an arrogant man’s wealth and status and his domination of a submissive woman who detests wearing the necklace in public. The necklace is stolen and the woman dies from an illness contracted from the thieves. For the rest of the trip, the in-a-relationship couple grieve for their friend and the woman works tirelessly to relieve the suffering of the destitute poor. The man admires the decent nobility and gracious compassion of his partner and near the end of the tour he buys an inexpensive jade necklace to commit to the marriage the woman desires as the ultimate expression of his love and esteem. Two necklaces acting as different symbols both driving plot.

MacGuffins and symbols are both useful in literary fiction storytelling but rarely are they the purpose for the story; instead, they are discovered, defined, and refined in late stages of revision.

You can READ both “ON THE ROAD TO YAZOO CITY” and “THE NECKLACE” online FREE or in print (also in audio free) with these links:
On The Road to City
The Necklace

Guy de Maupassant and Henry James are two (of many) who have used a necklace as symbol in fiction. Read an ANALYTIC COMPARISON of de Maupassant and Coles stories here:

The Necklace


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