I recently was having a discussion with a friend that wanted to get into writing, and since I have been too busy to really sit down and watch anything to review and enjoy… I thought I would start a little mini series on some things that I do to help me write, things I gathered from other artists and maybe some resources to help my friend and whoever may check this out and be interested in writing.
First off, the most important thing is to just write. It’s no different than drawing, and I had a professor in college that said we all had to make 10,000 bad drawings before we made one good one. Somedays that feels like the case.
So today I wanted to take some time to start with the basis of each story, and that is an outline, a path, a direction in which your characters go. Of course there are times when breaking the rules is ok and in some cases needed, but that will come with experience and will depend on the type of story you want to tell.
We are going to start with a basic story outline, which consists of 3 parts (such as a 3 act play). Which we will call the beginning, middle and end. However, there are 2 areas, one that lies in between the beginning and middle, which we call the rising action and the resolution, which lies between the middle and end. So our story path looks like…
Beginning>>>>>Rising Action>>>>>Middle (climax)>>>>>>Resolution>>>>>Ending
Every story needs that climax, we need a reason to care about the character or a way to connect with the character on their journey. For instance, if we have a short story about a kid waking up and going to the store, we have a beginning and an end but we have no climax, no meat to the story. The climax in most cases, will be a problem a character or your characters come across. So perhaps in our story on the way to the store, the kid loses their money so they can’t buy what they need. The problem our kid now faces, is the fact they don’t have money to get what they were going to buy.
So lets say that our story begins with an introduction to our character, the kid. We now have a middle point in the story where the kid loses their money on the way to the store. This is where the rising action comes into play. When you hear the word foreshadowing, that usually comes into play here. If you watch scary movies, music is a really good tool for foreshadowing. Foreshadowing is a technique used to prepare the audience for something. For instance, in scary movies they will use tense music to prepare the audience for a scary reveal. On the flip side, there are films that will use music as foreshadowing but it will lead to nothing, or after the reveal of nothing they get you.
The main thing to keep in mind of foreshadowing, is continuity. So lets say in our story we introduce our character getting up in the morning. They are getting dressed and we foreshadow a problem by the kid putting on a pair of shorts that have holes in the pocket. This way when the kid loses the money its not a shock to the audience, the money fell out of his pocket. Another route we could go, is on the way to the way to the store, the kid is flipping his coin in which they are going to buy something with and drops it in the sewer, this is still a route to get from Point A (the kid waking up) to Point B (the climax of the kid realizing they lost their money). And even another route we could go is by foreshadowing the character is forgetful. For instance as the kid is getting dressed, they forget to tie their shoes or forget their coat or something. That way the kid didn’t lose their money, they simply forgot it. But it still gets us from the kid waking up to realizing their money is gone.
So now that we have our character waking up, foreshadowing a way they lost their money and we have reached the climax of the character realizing their money is lost, we need to work towards resolving the issue and ending our story. The resolution will depend on how we actually want the story to end.
If we choose to end our story by the kid getting their money back, or go with the path of the kid not getting their money back, we will have different paths to go which will need to be addressed accordingly. If the character has money at the end of the story, then we could fill in our resolution (the way we resolve the conflict or climax) with an appropriate story. In this case, the kid could back track and find their money if they lost in through the hole in their shorts. In the event the kid forgot the money, they could return home and find it. Money lost in the drain while playing with it? The kid could find someone to reach the money or even someone who gives him money or buys his stuff at the store.
If we choose the alternate path of the kid losing their money, they could backtrack and not find the money that fell through their pocket. If the kid forgot the money, they could return home and not find it, or another family member could have mistaken it as their own. With the storyline of dropping the money in the sewer, the kid could simply not find it or try to recover it and fail, or no one will lend him some money.
There are no right or wrong paths you can create, as long as it makes sense in the overarching story your telling. This is a solid start to outlining short stories, but the same principles will apply to telling long form stories, which I will talk about next week. Feel free to comment below if you have any questions or have anything to add.