It’s been a long time since I’ve written any poetry or fiction. Having three jobs – a full-time job, part-time job, and teaching a couple grad classes to library science students – tends to slow down the creative writing process.
Back to just the full- and part-time jobs, today I took a Fiction Basics class at The Loft taught by Brian Malloy. The class was only two hours long and was about the five parts of a story – Exposition, Rising Action, Crisis/Turning Point, Falling Action, and Resolution. We talked about what goes in each part and then we did an exercise at the end where we started the Exposition and then passed the papers to the right until the Rising Action and Crisis/Turning Point were filled in by other class members.
That exercise was both cool and terrifying. It was cool because you could see what other classmates thought may happen in your story, but it was terrifying for that exact same reason.
I was not excited to fill in the Rising Action and Crisis/Turning Point for other people. I think this is where I lack the most in fiction, which is a really bad thing and what I need to work on. I think I’m good at Exposition, starting a world, creating characters, but then I get tangled in what they should do and where the story should go and I find myself starting a different story. It’s a problem. People have told me that I should introduce all the different characters from all the different stories I’ve started and see where it goes.
But I get stuck on what my characters should do. I’ve read a lot of different things from authors, and most of them say things like: make your characters do things they wouldn’t typically do, put your characters through hell, and have them end up far from where they were at the beginning of the story.
Malloy basically said this today, too. He talked about how the Falling Action part of the story is now the new normal, different from the normal in the Exposition. It’s what’s happening after the Crisis you have put your character through and it should be something that has changed them, but whatever that change is is up to you, the author, the god of this world.
So I have to start putting my characters through hell. Maybe some of them will literally go to hell, who knows, but I’m going to start doing bad things to good people.