Rhobin 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.
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: