Telling Stories After School

February is almost at an end and the wild March Hare is at the door, ready to come on through. The weather changes, the country changes, and life changes, often destroying that illusion that we can hold on to today or yesterday when we are already several tomorrows ahead. If one is writing Utopian fiction then a month of tomorrows have already passed leaving the new world unchangeable to those who finally arrive. But the rest of fiction always deals with, in some small part, today and in a larger sense, yesterday.

You, the reader, might ask why that must be so and I will tell you. We writers of fiction and that includes anyone who has written anything fanciable or humorous or even personal to others, even in passing, have become tellers of tales or stories after school. If I am to write a love story then I am basing my story on past events, experiences I know directly or indirectly. I create a little world of my own based on truth and falsehoods, perceptions and expectations, and what I, the artist with my artist’s eye, can see. It is that power of imagination and the skill of construction sentences into paragraphs and paragraphs into pages that finally convey a story to the reader. It’s basic and anyone can do it. Yes, it’s true, anyone can do it. You see, we all tell our stories to others in everyday conversation. Of course some of us are better at that than others. Some of us are better at stringing nouns and verbs and adverbs and adjectives and direct objects and indirect objects together in a narrative than others. Much of that has to do with practice, some of it is imagination, and some of it is innate.

All writing is story telling, even non-fiction, for the facts must be placed in a certain order for easy understanding. Nothing is worse that a non-fiction tome that uses unwanted embellishment and frills, just cut to the exact narrative, if you please. But fiction embraces a certain amount of embellishment. Beware though, fluff and fill are not embellishment. They are the boulders and quicksand that stand in the way of the narrative. Telling stories is something of a craft, we learn from a very early age how to tell stories. Ever listen to a child of five trying to tell a story? Watch that child grow up and see how the ability improves. But few of us ever really master that ability, that sense of craft that can leave the listener spellbound. So it is with the written word, only so much harder because the writer cannot make use of sound effects and bodily gestures.

Now for the pitch, as they say in marketing. I’ve been busy renovating a house these past few years, distracted by the political and social problems facing our counbtry and the rest of the world, and doing a lot of research for a possible dystopian novel that I hope to write and complete in two years. Short stories are easy to write but a good deal harder to write well as you may have noticed from reading my site. All of them are in rough shape, in need of various forms of editing. This week I did my first edit on the story “Wave”, which needs further refinement. So as I read more books, read through my note, and go from a very broad and general outline of the new novel (and yes, because of the complexity of the story lines I will need to “storyboard” it just to keep tract of everything), editing past stories gets me back into the habit of writing fiction effectively. Who knows, I may end up with a dozen or two short stories ready for publication. As for Wave, there are problems with word usage, phrasing, description, and the need for a bit more dialogue. And I might even toss in an essay or two for good measure.

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