Food Dictates Character What She Ate: six remarkable women and the food that tells their stories by Laura Shapiro (Penguin Random House Publishers) evoked all kinds of questions in my mind. The book describes the eating habits of Dorothy Wordsworth, Rosa Lewis, Eleanor Roosevelt, Eva Braun, Barbara Pym, and Helen Gurley Brown. Their eating habits
While nonfiction is probably the most direct way of addressing issues of importance, my personal preference, for both reading and writing, uses fiction as the vehicle.
Recently I read a book called Then She Was Born, written by Cristiano Gentili and translated into English by Lori Hetherington. I am often asked to review books, and in this case, I received an unsolicited copy. I don’t always have the time or desire to read the books I receive, but something inside nudged me to try this book. I’m glad I did for it impacted me profoundly. The book is about the plight of African albinos living and struggling to overcome deeply rooted superstitions, even in today’s ‘modern’ world. I had no idea. Although I’m sure I would have been sympathetic to the cause had I read an article in a magazine, hearing it from the point of view of a person going through it brought the issue up close and personal.
Beginnings and endings are the most important parts of our stories, besides the middles! Each part is essential. Take a look at I Corinthians 12:21ff, “. . . the eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’ And the head cannot say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you!’ ” Our stories would be incomplete without the necessary parts, just as our bodies and the church are incomplete without each part.
The thing about beginnings is that they set the stage in so many ways. First lines or paragraphs are responsible to introduce character, setting, mood, and possibly even the story question.
Ever read a mystery that left you flabbergasted? The murderer was not the suspect you had in mind. How did that happen? There wasn’t a clue—or at least not one you figured out. So how did the writer pull it off? Quite possibly they were surprised too.
Building a Sandwich
You may be familiar with the good old sandwich analogy. Take two pieces of bread—the beginning of the story and the ending—and layer the rest of the ingredients in between. This is the basic three act structure that fits almost every kind of fiction, no matter if it’s a play, a short story, or even a full length novel. Put simply, every story must have three basic parts: the problem; the problem gets worse; the problem gets solved. While the middle usually makes up the bulk of the “sandwich,” the “meat” if you will, the choice of bread on either side can make or break the story. A weak beginning and readers may not continue reading. A weak ending and they will be left feeling unsatisfied and probably won’t be back for more.
Middles have a way of sagging. I’m talking about books, of course!
The InScribe Blog on Writing would like to welcome our newest bloggers: Tracy Krauss and Violet Nesdoly. Enjoy the following post by Tracy on plotting vs. pantsing.
Plotting vs. Pantsing
There is much debate among authors over which works best. There is certainly merit to both methods. Plotting ensures continuity while pantsing keeps it fresh. It’s really a matter of personal preference. As long as the final outcome is solid, the methodology really doesn’t matter.
When I began writing, I came across this statement: “Write what you know.” Wise, but severely limiting if you’ve led a sheltered life. I reversed the adage to read, “Know what you write.” Even if I don’t know something from firsthand knowledge or experience, I can find out about it.
Point of view can be a tricky subject. Basically, it refers to how we decide to relate our story, the perspective from which we see it. Which character(s) will communicate the story most effectively? Do we want to tell the story from one person’s perspective?
That’s our motto. We want to make sure that once we’ve shared with our readers the journey our characters have taken, we also grant them a satisfying ending. It doesn’t matter how great the story is; it must leave us content on some level by the time we turn the final page.