Tag Archives: stories

Storytellers Anonymous

On my desktop at work, I have a picture that has been there for the past year. This is what it is:

I think you should be able to enlarge it if you like, if you open in a new tab.

So, whenever I go on break, or I walk away from the desk, or I minimize my browser and anything else I have up on the computer when someone comes by, they see this. I’m always asked a bunch of questions when they notice it: Who is that? What are they doing, where are they going? What is that, a wolf?

The questions and the awe and the “Oh that’s awesome” happened so frequently that I considered for a while about writing a story to go with it, but I hadn’t jumped on it.

It happened last night, too. Someone saw the wallpaper that hadn’t seen it before, and the same thing ensued, but this time I stopped, and I asked her about it instead.

“I imagine that she’s looking off in the distance, they’ve been traveling for a while,” she said.

I could write the story. I could come up with something vast and complex as it is beautiful, a heartfelt prose about the bond between tiger and woman. About a magical trek across whatever lands it takes them to get wherever they need to be. Or, I could let everyone else pick their own imagination about what’s going on in the picture.

What are their minds filled with when they see it? What details stick out the most? Why are the end pieces on the rug glowing, and his necklace? Is that her necklace?

Anything can be a prompt if I want it to. For me, as time goes on, the more prompts I see out in the world. But for others, those who don’t write, or those who maybe don’t have much of a creative outlet, having a picture so vivid and eye-catching can help the wheels turning for no other reason than because they’re trying to make sense of it, figure out what’s going on.

I’ve thought about changing the wallpaper a couple of times. Really, I love it; it’s colorful and inspiring and has a fantastical touch to it, but it’s been a year and change and I wouldn’t mind something different. Then I realized, unless I found something just as captivating, it wasn’t going to generate the same reaction.

And I rather like making minds turn with curiosity.

-The Novice Wordsmith

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Static versus Round

Every storytelling aspect can be applied to real life, in different ways. Tropes, climax, conflict, heroes and anti-heroes, and, most of all, round (or dynamic) and static characters.

I found this particularly true for the round and static character explanation over the past several months, but it got more into the dynamics and elements of storytelling itself with some fundamental things changing or being different than normal.

Static characters are not typically in the forefront of the story, for example. Every main character I’ve read has had a change of heart or a change of life and has handled it differently in the end than they would have in the beginning. They are round, and called such for the change, the fact that they are always curving and turning when you zoom in on the lines.

I digress, the fact is that there is a shift in view or perspective for those dynamic characters, they learn and in turn their actions change.

Recently, though, I realized that a friend of mine hadn’t changed much or at all, and her perspective, her reactions, her general disposition had all remained the same. When asked a question lately that she’d been asked years ago, her answer was the same.

People who are immovable in many ways are usually the secondary or tertiary characters, or in the background somewhere. They matter less because the main storyline relies on a lot of change, it relies on conflict creating a different view, it’s why you read the story in the first place, to see how something progresses. The definition of progress is ‘movement to a goal or further to a higher stage.’ How do you get there if your sights are in the same place?

Could a story technically still survive with a static character in the front? It becomes more about their struggles and their daily life and how they handle it. Sure, because you’re highlighting the way of life, there’s a message in there somewhere.

Then again, if that’s all you wrote, wouldn’t your writing become very limited?

Someone who is not open to learning or change is stifling the ability to become a better version of themselves. I mean those who outright refuse.

There is a story to be told there, but, as the name suggests, dynamic characters have a lot more possibilities.

I have to admit that I’ve never met someone so stubborn and unwilling to change, someone so against the idea. In 25 years, I’ve met one or two who don’t fully grasp the concept of learning and being shaped by ideas and the world around them. They understand it plenty, but they refuse to let it take hold.

The thought had me wondering about main characters, about stories and novels, and how many of the main characters don’t budge, don’t change or get shaped by the way their world moves. What kind of story does a character like that make for?

In contrast, a lot of my characters tend to be like me in that they thirst for knowledge. Some, like secondary or tertiary characters, aren’t given that much dimension, so they remain static. So there’s a difference there between refusal and not being given the chance.

Usually, how you hear about static characters is by the fact that they aren’t the ones the story’s changing is directed at. They aren’t going through conflict. They simply look on from the sidelines. They are a stationary piece of the puzzle themselves.

Which reminds me of Welcome to Nightvale’s deep quote from the other day: “Death is only the end if you assume the story is about you.

Whether it’s a story you’re writing or your own story, static and dynamic characters are everywhere, and each have a place. Just as it is in what we write, our life has lessons for us, if we choose to see it that way. We are what the story makes us, if we’re willing to accept that.

What kind of character will you be?

-The Novice Wordsmith

Flashback, a Prompt

Some of the best explanations can be done without a character talking at all. Going back in time, or forward to the conclusion your character may be jumping to in their head, can accomplish more than simple conversation would be able to. Not only does it allow you a chance to describe in detail certain important pieces of the puzzle, but it shows a side of the character the reader may not have seen before.

This works, as I’ve found, beautifully, for the characters who are intensely guarded.

Not to mention it can eat up wordcount like a beast when you need it (typically only done for nano, as far as I’ve seen).

Obviously, consider what you can do with it, but the flashback is a tool at your disposal for when everything else just doesn’t cut it. It can help to relate the character to the reader, to explain how they act or why they speak in a certain way(or not at all), and any number of things you can think of. The possibilities are endless!

They can be as deep as being a whole separate scene, or as light as being a random, drug up thought by the character, whatever the story calls for.

The Wordsmith pauses then, considering a time recently when she created something of the sort, but shakes her head of the thought and carries on, too embarrassed by the way it turned out to let her mind linger on it any longer.

Indulge, experiment, and consider. It can take up a few lines, or a few to several dozen pages. It can set up a scene, or the whole book. Though, that’s another thing entirely, going back and forth between times, to show off certain parts of a story and particular points, for the express purpose of telling it one specific way.

I am reminded of Friend’s Nano novel of last year, which roughly 1/4 to 1/2 of the story was a flashback, setting up the rest of the book and/or series. The year before, a flashback turned the tides of the story in a way he wasn’t expecting.

On the other hand, my flashbacks all tend to be small, thoughts, light ideas that flicker in and then out.

Now I can’t help but think about the show/movie version of these things, which trips you into a different part in time with a wavy layover or a dreamy, misty coloring at the edges. Which happens either while a character thinks, or when they’re telling someone about an event. Think of the majority of Phantom of the Opera, if you’ve seen the one with Gerard Butler, at least.

Let your mind run wild, and then somehow get it into writing.

-The Novice Wordsmith

People Watching

Last November, on my way back from Utah, my friend put a challenge up for me about people watching, since I’d be sitting in the airport for a couple of hours with nothing to do but write and wait. I put people I saw into my novel, the main characters talking to each other about where they thought these people were going, when, if they were in a rush or not. It occupied me enough that the time I was waiting for my plane flew by (pun intended) and by the time I finished, it was about time to board.

Of course, it’s not just when you’re traveling that you should be people watching, and even eavesdropping, or so said my fiction writing professor a few years ago.

These people can often become inspiration for characters in stories and novels and what have you, look at the world around you and see what’s going on. Take notice, give your attention to the detail. This is especially good if you need the inspiration, just let it take you somewhere.

Today, on my way out to California, I’ll be doing the same thing. It’s amazing the stories you hear and come up with from total strangers.

– The Novice Wordsmith