Writing Report August 9, 2016

The last week proved to be very good for me creatively.  Thanks to participation in Beth Bornstein Dunnington’s writers workshop on Sunday* I now have the first draft of four short stories that I’m going to get circulating in the next few weeks and five short-shorts (or fictoids, as I like to call ‘em). You’ll be seeing those (i.e., the fictoids) over the next few weeks.  The four short stories are pretty short -- most around 800 or so words, one almost twice that length – but I think they’ll be fun reads once I finish polishing them.

No progress on the books but since I knocked off a number of short works I’m not bugging out on that…yet.  But I do need to get those drafts completed ASAP.

the jewel-hinged jaw

In my last writing report I mentioned a method of creating a character that (IIRC) Samuel R. Delaney discussed in his book The Jewel-Hinged Jaw.

I don’t think Delaney claimed this as his own but credited another writer with it; however, I can’t remember who that may have been so, Chip, if I’ve short changed ya, my apologies…

This is what you need to create the basics of a character:

  1. A name
  2. A gender
  3. An age
  4. An occupation
  5. A physical description
  6. An emotional description

To whit:

Jane is a tall, effervescent retired librarian.

Jack, 24, is a stocky, sour auto mechanic.

Brian is a moody dark-haired high school student.

Betty is a pensive middle-aged housewife in a wheelchair.

You’ll notice how it doesn’t take very much to create a character in the readers' minds.  Give them just a few pertinent details and they’ll fill in all the blanks.

And you don’t have to break each component down:  Names often indicate gender as well, a high school student by definition is a teenager, etc.  (And clearly “occupation” is not limited to what their actual workaday job is.)

But those 6 basics are all you need to ground a character; you can build on it from there.

Jane, the tall, effervescent retired librarian, is clearly a much different person from John, the cantankerous 40 year old corpulent librarian, who is a different person from Joan, the shy, gawky tween intern librarian, who is different from Juan, the elegant trim 30 year old librarian.




*  I’ve known Beth as a fellow scribe since my animation days and highly recommend her workshops; check out her blog for more info (and, no, I didn’t travel to Hawaii; Beth was holding a special workshop in Venice [no, not Italy, California].).