Tell a story
Monday, April 7, 2008
And I think that can be applied to just about anything, really. Look at how kids play: they just go out there and do it. They don't concern themselves about wearing the proper footwear or ensuring that they have sunscreen on or wondering if they have some Kleenex in their handbag in case their noses start to drip unexpectedly.
Heck, they don't even consider handbags unless it's a small change purse shaped like a monkey's head to carry money around for when they go out to buy treats. Treats!
Now where was I? Oh yeah, writing. In Grade 1, the way we learned about writing went along the lines of this:
Tell a story.
So we did. We wrote beautiful passages like:
Example 1: Timmy has a dog.
Example 2: Rachel rode her bike.
Then, as we moved into the next grade, the teacher asked us to do something else to write well:
Add descriptions to tell us more.
So we did.
Example 1: Timmy, the boy next door, has a dog named Fig. It's brown with white spots.
Example 2: Rachel rode her bike to school. It has a banana seat. I like banana seats.
By the time we entered middle and high school, all of those hormones running through our systems had to come out somehow. So our frightened teachers gave us another great writing tip:
So we did.
Example 1: Timmy, the cute boy next door who never gave me the time of day, has a dog named Fig. Well, he used to, but Fig passed away. That was very sad. I offered Timmy a hug but he hugged Marta instead. I hate her. Heck, I hate Timmy too.
Example 2: Rachel rode her bike to school until her parents gave her a car. Now that Rachel has a car, she's ignoring all of her old friends and hanging out with the cool kids. I hate her.
And, as we soon discovered, emotions can only take you so far. What really drives any story is GMC: goals, motivation and conflict. So to write even "more good," we had to:
Add some GMC.
And that's when things get difficult. Here's why:
Example 1: Though Timmy put on a brave face, he was crumbling inside. Witnessing his dog's demise made Timmy realize how short life really was. Each day was a gift, yet he was surrounded by takers. Marta had seemed so kind at first, but now all he could hear was resentment in her voice whenever he suggested they do volunteer work at the local animal shelter. He had to dump her, and fast.
Example 2: Rachel felt like she owned the world when she turned the key in the ignition. Every time the engine in her cherry-red Mustang roared to life, so did a long-forgotten part of her. This was the Rachel that stayed hidden while her father beat the crap out of her and her sister. This was the Rachel nobody messed with because she was finally the one in control. Now if only she could get out of the driveway without popping the clutch.
Of course, GMC is a tricky thing to master, mainly because it's almost impossible to master it on your own. Just like with a vocal coach, you need someone else to help guide you and let you know if you're singing in the right key...or at least kind of close to it.
And it's almost impossible to be objective about your own words. Especially when you love them one day and then hate them the next.
But good writing all boils down to the first thing we ever learned about it:
Tell a story.
posted by Bonnie Staring at 10:28 PM