First and foremost, I want to apologize profusely for what has turned out to a super long delay. I had zero intention of neglecting you guys, as I know some of you thoroughly enjoyed this series. Please forgive me.
Author Boaz Gaon offers what he called his “Ten Commandments of Fiction Writing:”
1.) Mirror- what you see in front of you is unique and cannot be altered in any way. This applies to your writing, as well: your style, prose, syntax, word choice, all of it. They are all your own. Embrace them fully and be comfortable with who you are.
He used Shakespeare’s Henry VIII as an example of how we perceive ourselves in the mirror. Gaon strongly recommends the play, also.
2.) Train– It’s physical. Eccentric. Think about what is it about your characters that stick out, that make them memorable? How do they react to their surroundings, and the situations they’re thrown into? Not unlike POV, each character is going to react differently, which, in turn, impacts the story. It seems like a linear process, doesn’t it? Try to really get to know your characters; know them deeply, intimately. For example, what does their thought process look like?
3.) Hunger– Your hero needs to have an insatiable appetite for his/her desire. Ask yourself: what is driving their desires? There must be a valid reason why they they refuse to stop until they’ve met the goal. What is it? Why are they dissatisfied? Said desire (there can be more than one) must consume them, and ultimately this drives the story forward.
4.) Knife– in Three Uses of The Knife, David Mamet says that “a knife can have three uses (it can have more,) one: it can be used to slice bread; two, it can be used to spread butter on the bread for someone that person loves, and three: it can be used to stab in the heart the person that betrayed him.”
Think about those knives, or whatever object they may be (it’s your story, after all, it needn’t be a knife,) and how these ordinary, every day things impact your story. And remember: it isn’t a story until “someone takes that cup of coffee and splashes it in the face of someone else.
5.) Wall– there is no story without a wall, or antagonist. The higher the wall, the bigger reward, as long as it’s in the realm of reason and believability.
6.) Heart– As you write, it needs to contain emotion, love and pain, even hatred at times. These emotions can be difficult to process because sometimes they come from deep seated places and experiences in your life, but however you channel them, they needs to be present on the page.
7.) Flesh– Try to think of images that, even independently of the story arc, are so strong and eccentric that they will burn into the flesh of the reader or viewer as he goes on with his life.
8.) Medium– Choose the medium that you’d be most comfortable in. There are pros and cons to working in theatre, writing short stories, novels, poetry, etc…
9.) Money– It is important, but only if it helps you write. You will need a good editor, and they will rip your work to shreds, leaving only the essential story and character development (and your heart will break at the mere thought of “killing your darlings,”) but your editor will always be right…unless you have a bad one.
10.) Body– In the end, we live in this world and our lives are short, and all that will remain will be our body of work; the things that we write, the things we create, so read the works of those no longer with us, but that has remained (and stands the test of time.)
He goes on recommend addition books:
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13270.Poetics?ac=1&from_search=1&from_nav=true It’s difficult, but study and analyze it. It’s worth it.
Look for other Russian literature, as well as the autobiographies of Arthur Miller (which delves into his romance with Marilyn Monroe,) and Tennessee Williams.
Gaon offers some sage advice, too: “remain hungry and envious at those that have gone before us because after all, that is all there is.”
In closing, Angela Flournoy (author of The Turner House,) and her partner in crime gave some thoughts on sustaining the writing life…
-Put things in perspective. If you’re a novelist, it’s important to remember that you’re the tortoise, not the hare. There will be other writers around you who are being published and receiving recognition, but if you’re working on a massive novel, kkep in mind that it’s going to take you longer to finish it.
-The trajectory of a short story writer is going to be different, as well. We are all on a unique journey, regardless of your chosen path (not unlike your characters, eh?) and there’s something beautiful in that.
-Never give up hope.Visit your work every day and persevere, even if you only can write a few words or paragraphs a day. At least it’s something.
(But if you’re anything like me, once I sit down in front of the blank page and gain some momentum, the words tend to flow, and a few hours later I’ve written a thousand words and there’s no other feeling in the world that sense of accomplishment can compare to. Writing means being a part of something much bigger than us, bigger than we can fathom.)
-Take care of yourself, be mindful of your health and stability. Breathe deeply.
-At the end of the day, at least you’ve taken a shot at it.
-Support other writers. Join a writing community, whether it’s online or meeting up in person. There’s a special kinship in being a part of the lives and creative process of fellow writers. While you’re there, recommend books and authors, discuss the craft, and ultimately hone those friendships over the years.
Thank you guys for reading and following Flaggfan, and allowing me to a part of your day. It’s the least you can do to show your support, and I appreciate every one of you. I love you guys!