Elementary, my dear Rhobin

roundrobinRhobin Courtright’s homework for her faithful bloggers is, “What elements do you include in your stories to make a story seem and feel more realistic to the reader?”

Hmm… There are 118 elements in the current Periodic Table. I had to look that up, because the last time I studied chemistry was in 1962. I ALWAYS include hydrogen, oxygen, carbon, and the various other elements that make up organic matter. Silicon and other rock-forming elements are necessary, as are several metals, particularly iron.

Oh, have I got the question wrong? Sorry! Why can’t I ever follow instructions?

Right, back to Internet University. A few clicks resulted in a choice: 5 elements of good writing, 4 elements of writing (which partly but not completely overlap with the previous), 7 elements of a story (which are completely different from the 5 or 4), then there is a list of 10.

Sigh.

So, let me be contrary, and rebellious, and also headstrong and mule-headed and even defiant. I declare that if you spend your time counting or even considering elements, you will never induce a chemical reaction within your reader’s consciousness.

Instead, I am an alchemist, using magic.


Start with a distillation of character. I immerse myself in this substance, and transmogrify into an entirely different person. This could be a snakelike boy with three tentacles; or a girl madly in love with a young fellow, precisely because my parents disapprove of him; or an Irishman whose one motive in life is to kill as many English as possible (that’s in 1798-1801: Dermot in Ascending Spiral.). It could be a saintly person with never a negative thought (if only!), or the opposite: someone whose one joy is to torture others (thank heavens, that’s an effort, too).

Then I drop the character-who-is-now-me into the hot crucible of a situation, and see what happens. If that surprises me, I’ve got the right chemistry.

Let’s have a case study.

My current writing project is Lifting the Gloom: An antidepressant primer of short stories. I wanted a story to illustrate the truism that you can’t care for others until you care for the carer first. So, I did my usual, and gave Little Bob inside my head the task of coming up with a character as I settled for sleep. In the morning, I had a young man giving the eulogy at his older brother’s funeral.

The finish gave me a complete surprise, but I’ll turn you into a frog if you read the end first. Besides, it wouldn’t make any sense.

I’ve posted this story under “Stories” at Bobbing Around. Let me know what you think, there or here.

Then please visit my fellow bloggers. They are waiting for you:

Skye Taylor
Fiona McGier
Rhobin L Courtright
Judith Copek
Victoria Chatham
Diane Bator
Beverley Bateman
Connie Vines

About Dr Bob Rich

I am a professional grandfather. My main motivation is to transform society to create a sustainable world in which my grandchildren and their grandchildren in perpetuity can have a life, and a life worth living. This means reversing environmental idiocy that's now threatening us with extinction, and replacing culture of greed and conflict with one of compassion and cooperation.
This entry was posted in Rhobin's round robin, Uncategorized, writing. Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Elementary, my dear Rhobin

  1. judyinboston says:

    I like the “LIttle Bob inside your head.” Beautiful Eulogy. Sounded very real and truthful. My friend just died suddenly and I could. relate.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dr Bob Rich says:

      Thank you, Judy.
      I don’t know if I like Little Bob, because I’ve never met him. Today, while I am compiling the September issue of my newsletter, he is working on what a 12-legged person named Dolatod will do next.
      Yesterday, he was more useful: prepared an answer to three different cries for help.

      Thank you for your eulogy of Kevin’s eulogy. He’ll be all right, with two kids to look after him.
      🙂
      Bob

      Like

  2. HI Bob, I loved your post and your short story. Having lost two dear friends to cancer this year made it particularly pertinent as is ‘I wanted a story to illustrate the truism that you can’t care for others until you care for the carer first.’ I so agree with you. My friends and neigbours thought I was a dreadful mother back in the day because, soon as my kids could butter a slice of bread and open a can of beans, Saturday was their day to look after themselves. If they had crisps and jam sandwiches all day, so be it. We had a good diet on six days of the week, so I figured one day of fending for themselves wouldn’t harm them and might teach them a thing or two. My eldest will be 57 at Christmas, my eldest son is now 54 and my youngest son at 53 is actually a great cook. The airlines tell you all the time to put your oxygen mask on first before you help anyone else and how right they are.

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    • Dr Bob Rich says:

      Thank you, Victoria.
      My two lovely grandchildren in Sydney each cook for the family one day a week, and have progressed to quite elaborate menus. During lockdown, cooking was part of education (their school is open again now).

      Like

  3. okwriter says:

    A fun post – pulled me in. Your mind and Little Bob pull out all sorts of fascinating ideas. While my mind doesn’t work like yours, I do give my mind a situation when I go to bed and usually have an answer in the morning.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dr Bob Rich says:

      Thank you, Beverley. Nobody’s mind works like mine! It’s been both the joy and tragedy of my life. I think it’s because I am an alien person, temporarily visiting Earth. But yes, some things are shared everywhere in the Universe, like Little Bobs and Little Beverleys, doing their work in the background.

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  4. fionamcgier says:

    There was a recent study that found that readers of fiction are more empathetic than others. Why? Because they are constantly identifying with characters unlike themselves, which leads them to new pathways to think, and a sense of feeling what other people are experiencing. How much more so is that with us authors? We have to actually “become” the characters, at least while we’re writing the stories, and in our own minds. That’s how we bring the stories to life.

    Nice “take” on the prompt.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dr Bob Rich says:

      I’ll go further than that, Fiona. I think that people without empathy as yet are unable to appreciate or even understand fiction, for the reason you stated.
      Fiction writing and being a healer/helper have a very large overlap in abilities.
      🙂
      Bob

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  5. Skye-writer says:

    I LOVED your story about the funeral and the ending was perfect. Just what I needed today. Thanks

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Rhobin says:

    P.S. Read the story. I cried too (I have 4 siblings and death is bound to happen) but found the philosophical perspective message interesting and hopeful. Couldn’t post on the page, so doing it here.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dr Bob Rich says:

      Thank you, Rhobin. When I had my past life recalls, I actually encountered a Person like that. I tried to recall the death of me when I was Amelia. She was racing toward that incredible, indescribable glow of Beauty, when a thought that was not my thought was placed in my mind: “You are not going there.”

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  7. Rhobin says:

    Bob, I found this a very humorous post. You reminded me of Doc Brown, the professor in the Back to the Future movie trilogy. Yet beneath the humor are sparks of reality. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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