• strict warning: Declaration of FeedsImporter::copy() should be compatible with FeedsConfigurable::copy(FeedsConfigurable $configurable) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/feeds/includes/FeedsImporter.inc on line 94.
  • strict warning: Declaration of FeedsNodeProcessor::map() should be compatible with FeedsProcessor::map($source_item, $target_item = NULL) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/feeds/plugins/FeedsNodeProcessor.inc on line 319.
  • strict warning: Declaration of FeedsNodeProcessor::setTargetElement() should be compatible with FeedsProcessor::setTargetElement(&$target_item, $target_element, $value) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/feeds/plugins/FeedsNodeProcessor.inc on line 319.
  • strict warning: Declaration of FeedsFeedNodeProcessor::map() should be compatible with FeedsProcessor::map($source_item, $target_item = NULL) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/feeds/plugins/FeedsFeedNodeProcessor.inc on line 227.
  • strict warning: Declaration of FeedsFeedNodeProcessor::setTargetElement() should be compatible with FeedsProcessor::setTargetElement(&$target_item, $target_element, $value) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/feeds/plugins/FeedsFeedNodeProcessor.inc on line 227.
  • strict warning: Declaration of FeedsUserProcessor::map() should be compatible with FeedsProcessor::map($source_item, $target_item = NULL) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/feeds/plugins/FeedsUserProcessor.inc on line 195.
  • warning: preg_replace(): Compilation failed: disallowed Unicode code point (>= 0xd800 && <= 0xdfff) at offset 1809 in /home/writezil/public_html/modules/search/search.module on line 334.
  • warning: preg_replace(): Compilation failed: disallowed Unicode code point (>= 0xd800 && <= 0xdfff) at offset 1809 in /home/writezil/public_html/modules/search/search.module on line 334.
  • warning: preg_replace(): Compilation failed: disallowed Unicode code point (>= 0xd800 && <= 0xdfff) at offset 1809 in /home/writezil/public_html/modules/search/search.module on line 334.
  • warning: preg_replace(): Compilation failed: disallowed Unicode code point (>= 0xd800 && <= 0xdfff) at offset 1809 in /home/writezil/public_html/modules/search/search.module on line 334.
  • warning: preg_replace(): Compilation failed: disallowed Unicode code point (>= 0xd800 && <= 0xdfff) at offset 1809 in /home/writezil/public_html/modules/search/search.module on line 334.
  • warning: preg_replace(): Compilation failed: disallowed Unicode code point (>= 0xd800 && <= 0xdfff) at offset 1809 in /home/writezil/public_html/modules/search/search.module on line 334.
  • You must include at least one positive keyword with 3 characters or more.
  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 843.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_plugin_display::options_validate() should be compatible with views_plugin::options_validate(&$form, &$form_state) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/plugins/views_plugin_display.inc on line 1877.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_plugin_display_block::options_submit() should be compatible with views_plugin_display::options_submit(&$form, &$form_state) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/plugins/views_plugin_display_block.inc on line 193.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_field_broken::ui_name() should be compatible with views_handler::ui_name($short = false) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_field.inc on line 641.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_sort_broken::ui_name() should be compatible with views_handler::ui_name($short = false) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_sort.inc on line 82.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_filter::options_validate() should be compatible with views_handler::options_validate($form, &$form_state) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_filter.inc on line 585.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_filter::options_submit() should be compatible with views_handler::options_submit($form, &$form_state) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_filter.inc on line 585.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_filter_broken::ui_name() should be compatible with views_handler::ui_name($short = false) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_filter.inc on line 609.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_filter_boolean_operator::value_validate() should be compatible with views_handler_filter::value_validate($form, &$form_state) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_filter_boolean_operator.inc on line 128.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_plugin_style_default::options() should be compatible with views_object::options() in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/plugins/views_plugin_style_default.inc on line 25.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_plugin_row::options_validate() should be compatible with views_plugin::options_validate(&$form, &$form_state) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/plugins/views_plugin_row.inc on line 135.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_plugin_row::options_submit() should be compatible with views_plugin::options_submit(&$form, &$form_state) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/plugins/views_plugin_row.inc on line 135.
  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 843.
  • strict warning: Declaration of content_handler_field::options() should be compatible with views_object::options() in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/cck/includes/views/handlers/content_handler_field.inc on line 208.
  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 843.
  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 843.
  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 843.
  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 843.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_argument::init() should be compatible with views_handler::init(&$view, $options) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_argument.inc on line 745.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_argument_broken::ui_name() should be compatible with views_handler::ui_name($short = false) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_argument.inc on line 770.

Creating Pockets of Story: Expand Inward

https://i2.wp.com/writerunboxed.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/brighter-... 300w, https://i2.wp.com/writerunboxed.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/brighter-... 768w, https://i2.wp.com/writerunboxed.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/brighter-... 600w, https://i2.wp.com/writerunboxed.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/brighter-... 825w" sizes="(max-width: 525px) 100vw, 525px" data-recalc-dims="1" />photo adapted / Horia Varlan
In college, I was in a dance improvisation company that gave me a healthy appreciation of the way constraining creativity can help it move forward. Our on-the-spot performances were informed by suggestions from the audience. It usually went something like this.
“What would you like to see a dance about?” our director would say.
“Love,” someone would call out.
“That’s a start,” our director would say, “but we need something more specific. What is the nature of this love?”
Someone else would call out, “A man who loves a dog.”
“Closer. Narrow it more.”
“A man who loves a dog that for some reason can’t walk.”
Bingo. Narrowing the topic made ideas blossom, and a dance was born.
 
Why limit your story
 What is the difference between “love” and “a man who loves a dog that for some reason can’t walk?”
The first is a generic topic that could go off in a million directions. The sheer number of possibilities can be paralyzing.
The second has rails that inspire, inform, and guide story movement.
A man who loves a dog that for some reason can’t walk might stand still, petting the dog, while the rest of the world goes by. He might carry the dog everywhere in a backpack; set it beside him on a chair in an outdoor café. Another type of man might drag the dog around, insisting that the lazy dog’s discomfort would eventually inspire him to use his legs, while yet another might manipulate the useless limbs, praying all the while, hoping that consistent attention might bring about a miracle. The man might decide that a dog was meant to run free, and conclude that the most loving thing to do would be to put the dog down.
Imagine that this man is a character in your novel. Maybe the novel isn’t about the man and the dog, specifically, but this relationship is simply a fact of the character’s existence. How he acts would tell us a lot about his character, wouldn’t it? The situation would create interesting limitations around the character’s ability to engage in other aspects of the story.
 
Specificity breeds universality
You know what the man in love with the dog reminds me of? Writing a novel manuscript.
A manuscript doesn’t have working legs. Without a publisher it can’t go anywhere. It may never have legs, despite the way you manipulate its limbs and cover it with prayer. Yet you love it, and so you take it everywhere in your mental backpack. Only you can decide when it’s time to put it down.
The late film critic, Roger Ebert, explained the importance of a story’s specificity while reviewing Brokeback Mountain, based on Annie Proulx’s story about two gay cowboys:
Strange but true: the more specific a film is, the more universal, because the more it understands individual characters, the more it applies to everyone. I can imagine someone weeping at this film, identifying with it because he always wanted to stay in the Marines, or be an artist or a cabinetmaker.
If I had been watching a dance troupe riff on the generic concept of “love,” I never would have drawn meaning about my manuscript. It took a man and a dog who couldn’t walk to get me there.
 
Expand inward through pockets of story
Constraining your story helps it stay on its rails. When it hits the boundaries you’ve set, you can still expand it—by moving inward.
You can study this technique in Sag Harbor, in which author Colson Whitehead stitches together pockets of story that illuminate his characters. Benji, the narrator, reflects on spending the summers of his youth in an all-black community in the Hamptons. At every turn, he uses setting details—such as this passage’s charcoal briquettes—to deepen characterization:
Kingsford charcoal, my father’s fuel of choice. When it came to grilling, anyway. The coals rustled out of the big blue-and-white bag onto the grate. Gravity had a design, tossing them in a certain arrangement. My father had his own laws, a precise concept of fire formation honed over the years. To people like you and me, a briquette is a briquette. Not to him. He seemed to analyze each coal individually, taking measure of its strengths, deficits, secret potential. The diamond in the darkness. He knew where they needed to go, recognizing the uniqueness of each cube and determining where it fit with the rest of the team. He assembled the pyramid meticulously, perceiving the invisible—the crooked corridors of ventilation between the briquettes, the heat traps and inevitable vectors of released energy, any potential irregularity that might undermine the project. The sublime interconnectedness of it all. He asserted his order. Built his fire.
Whitehead goes on like this for two more long paragraphs. When on occasion someone else would come along and offer up an alternate fire building technique, “My father glared at them like the imbeciles they were, spatula a-dangle.”
You know this character. He could have been your high school choir director or football coach, your corporation’s human relations manager or your mother. We recognize him through the way he lights a charcoal fire, in a delightful pocket of story that allowed Whitehead to expand his story inward.
Have you ever set a limit that expanded the creativity in your story? If so, what kind? Is “expanding inward” a story-starting technique for you, or something you add in later drafts?

Wish you could buy this author a cup of joe?

Now, thanks to tinyCoffee and PayPal, you can!

About Kathryn CraftKathryn Craft is the author of two novels from Sourcebooks, The Art of Falling and The Far End of Happy. Her work as a freelance developmental editor at Writing-Partner.com follows a nineteen-year career as a dance critic. Long a leader in the southeastern Pennsylvania writing scene, she leads writing workshops and retreats, and is a member of the Tall Poppy Writers. Learn more on Kathryn's website.Web | Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn | More Posts

"Sleep on your writing; take a walk over it; scrutinize it of a morning; review it of an afternoon; digest it after a meal; let it sleep in your drawer a twelvemonth; never venture a whisper about it to your friend, if he be an author especially. You may read selections to sensible women, -- if young the better."
A. Bronson Alcott

Random picks

  • There was a time when the only thought was to use article marketing to sell affiliate programs.
  • A lot of people have been searching on the Internet for a way to learn how to begin earning extra money online. These programs can cost thousands of dollars. Here I am going to tell you how you can start an online business on a shoe string budget. After you get going, you may want to use some other traffic programs which will cost some money. However, if you are interested to get started inexpensively, here’s the information you need. The first thing you will need is to get yourself a domain name and a web hosting account. When choosing a domain name, pick one that uses one of the...
  • Acer, Lenovo, Dell, Asus ... ... the face of the impact of Apple iPad, PC industry giants have finally started to expand the "counterattack." Tablet PC's "Hundred Flowers", may soon trigger a price war.
  • (a) Boy meets girl. (b) “The course of true love never did run smooth.” (c) True love eventually prevails. (d) The End. Virtually every romantic novel ever written has the same basic plot. That isn’t a complaint, it’s a statement of fact. What makes a romantic novel good, bad or indifferent is the journey from (a) to (d):  how it’s told, how well the fictional landscape is populated and whether or not we can be made to care what happens to the people in the story. The endless search for new angles on a very old tale has, over the years, taken romance writers down some highly unlikely...
  • Web cards do this two ways: 1) get people to come to your web site who have never completed business with you before, and 2) get those people to come back again and again and again. These little web cards can generate your entire business for you! Here's an important example we want you to really comprehend. Business can be very complicated and if you go to a bookstore or a library and begin searching for ebooks and data on business , you can become very baffled in a short cycle of ti...

Recommended sites

Most recent titles

Fast fact about writing

The contemporary important writing not of alphabetic type is that in Chinese characters, in which thousands of symbols are used, each representing a word or concept, and Japanese, where each character represents a syllable.