How to write fiction

How to write fiction making a main character’s life hell

Do I let you touch my belly or not?

Once upon a time… Truth be told, there were many ones and many times… but this happened some years ago. When I didn’t know a dip of the craft but scribbling down in any paper or messing around in the computer—creating files to be finished later… When I shyly looked up in alleys to try and figure out the extraterrestrial nature of writing, without courses to rely on. That is when I found this blog entry.

I can’t even boast of being a professional but at least now I know a bitty bit more compared to then. And how I learnt teaching English: there is no better way to learn something than trying to teach it, even if you have no idea. You need to become an expert to do so. Or fail trying.

To summarise, I don’t remember the name of the blog, the name or the author or anything about but an idea…and so for an elephant’s (pigmey) memory is quite offensive. I start to bad mouth myself so I’ll cut to the example given by this author[1] : any character is like a ball of dough you throw against a wall. You write about its reaction when touching the wall.

A…ha? I didn’t understand then. I was missing something. SUPER IMPORTANT.

Let’ about two characters. Your favourite characters from your favourite love story[2]… they’re getting married at last! You’re super happy. Now you feel like seeing all the details of their everyday life: the weight of the baby, how many bibs is they[3] drinking, the times the couple holds hands and watch TV together…the kisses.

I regret to ruin your fantasy…no, I don’t really regret ruining it. THIS IS NOT A STORY. It is a boring retelling. It is to brush your teeth before going to Spanish class first period, shave to wear a tie and go to the office on Monday eight in the morning traffic stuck, depilate your legs like every Sunday, marinate the chicken in ketchup the day before cooking it in the oven, to study five hours algebra the previous day to the exam. It is…routine. Who wants to watch something that they live every single day of their life as such?

Nope, nope, nope. I don’t mean that we can’t write about our character’s habits and “uses to”; no. It is something simple… but equally complicated. And for that I might use Ronald B. Tobías’ wise in 20 master plots with something of myself pepper-minting it.

Following the example of romance and routine…let’s have the boy meet __________ (fill in with the sex of your preference[4]). So they meet. He likes her or she likes him. So far we don’t have anything.

Wait a minute…she turns him down because he is an alcoholic. He moves to the International Space Station leaving him behind…She is Jewish and he…a neo-nazi. Worst, she is Jewish and she is…well, she.

HOUSTON, WE ARE IN TROUBLE! Voilá, now we have a story. We have a problem, then we have a story. Is he going to join AA to try his luck? Is he going to lose himself in booze? Will he train to become an astronaut or air-space engineer to pursue his beloved beyond the ozone layer? Will he leave Mein Kampf aside to plunge himself in the cultural shock? Will she abandon religion and culture to love freely?

The answer to these questions is the story itself. This is the mystery I was missing. The writer’s job is to stop the character from getting what he wishes for…. At least not that soon. AN STORY IS A CHAINED REACTION to the main character’s wish versus every single thing we put in their way to stop it from happening. In a few words, we’re the crazy bitches making hell out of the character’s life —that sometimes they make ours a pain in the neck…

This is what the author meant when he said the character’s dough thrown against a wall. The wall symbolizes the conflict or problem whilst the character reacts as dough either getting stuck to the problem or bouncing onto the floor. Now I get the metaphor. Do you?

What are your favourite conflicts? If it isn’t that much of a problem, use your power to like this or do something.

[1] If anyone sees it and recognizes the advice and knows who the idea belongs to, I’d really appreciate being told. This person deserves the acknowledgement as any author does.

[2] I know you have one under the bed.

[3] If Emily Dickinson used the “singular they”, why can’t  I to express it in neutral gender?

[4] Nowadays stories are not limited to boy meets girl. Today we can juggle boy meets boy, girl meets girl, girl meets alien? As a typically asexual hetero…

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