Friday, January 11, 2008

Ten Things that are Characteristic of a Story by Eleanor Arnason

Another post from the Wyrdsmiths blog. This is a game which Lyda Morehouse found. Can you list ten things which are characteristic of your writing? My reply was:

I'm not sure how far I can go with this, since I am ambivalent about looking closely at my writing...

Ten things that tell me I (and not someone else) wrote a story:

1) It's science fiction or fantasy. Everything I write is science fiction or fantasy, even if it doesn't entirely seem to be.

2) It will be funny. As far as I am concerned, everything I write is funny.

3) There may well be people covered with fur, though I also like feathers and scales.

4) I was writing about medieval fantasy perils in my previous post and came up with dragons and aardvarks. The aardvarks came out of nowhere as I wrote. But they sound funny and not perilous, unless you are an ant. (If you look for the aardvarks now, they are gone. I edited them out.) There must be a technical word for this, created by experts in rhetoric or English Lit: lists which include something that obviously does not fit in and makes the rest of the list look a bit silly. It's a kind of a pratfall, a way of pulling the rug out from my story. I do this a lot, though never completely. A story should be serious as well as funny.

5) There will food and drink.

6) There will be bathrooms.

7) There will lots of words that describe light: gleam, glitter, shine, flash, shimmer, glow...

8) The characters will not fit into their society. Especially, they will not be comfortable with established roles for men and women or ordinary, decent sexual behavior. They will be gay in a straight society or straight in a gay society.

9) The main characters are usually more good than bad, though now and then I try to write a jerk. But mostly I write about people I would enjoy spending time with: smart, verbal, thoughtful, mostly honorable and kind.

10) The protagonist will be alive at the end and able to keep moving on. I don't write sad endings. There is too much sadness in real life.

11) A bonus characteristic. This one really comes from my subconscious. I noticed it years ago and decided, what the heck. The characters I indentify with will have names that begin with E, A, L or N. The reason for E and A is obvious. Why L or N? Sound out Eleanor.


Blogger delagar said...

I'vr been rereading A Woman of the Iron People over the past week. A really good book. I like so many things about it -- I was admiring the oracle this morning. He's such a good character. And the whole bit with the gestures, the way you play and build on and use that. It's lovely.

11:39 AM  

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