In many ways, we are the stories we tell--whether we are writers with a wide and varied audience or merely conveying meaning to our children or grandchildren. Stories sustain us. They keep memories of the ones who preceded alive--confirming my theory that the dead are alive when you think of them. And if you dare to write about them, they are preserved forever.
Just when you think you know all the techniques, rules and tricks for writing a damn good novel, you attend a Jim Frey workshop and learn something new. These are some of the things I learned from my mentor and story coach this week.
Beginnings should always raise story questions in the first sentence. They should get the reader emotionally connected and start the rising action of the story.
Viewpoint is a technique, but also an attitude. Give your narrator an attitude that is not necessarily the attitude of the author.
Whenever you have the reader's attention because of tension or conflict, exploit it.
The situation in your stories should always be changing. And when the situation changes, so do the character's emotions.
Conflict causes layers of self protection to be shed, exposing what the character is at his core.
A good story is about a dramatic character in a dramatic struggle who has a dramatic transformation through the events of the story.
You create suspense through what you tell the reader, not through what you hold back.
Your job as a writer is to create obstacles (problems) for your character, not to solve them.
Always ask yourself, what could happen in your scene that would be dramatic, fresh and have high stakes.
Always narrate scenes where nothing happens.
Dialogue should be fresh, in conflict, indirect and colorful.
Jim Frey claims writing a novel is not brain surgery, but for those of us who try, to write them it often seems that way.