I write about conflict and the resolution of angst, that internal turmoil that creates tension and worry. Anxiety. Don’t we all? But the real question is “Do you deliberately write to create anxiety?”
No two writers come at story and fictional characters the same, thank God. How much fun would that be? To qualify as an actual “story” there are certain requirements a piece of writing must have like Characters to care about, the structure of Beginning’s set-up, Middle’s complications and Ending’s resolutions, as well as some kind of Goal that must be thwarted by some kind of Opposition thus Conflict, a sense of place or Scene for the reader to imagine and , of course, a logical Series of Events the characters live through. Without these elements, the writing is a slice-of-life or essay, not a story.
An important tenant of good storytelling focuses on that Opposition element so the writer avoids the boring “happy people of the happy village.” Our culture (perhaps even all humans) appreciates more of the stories of the “challenged people of the challenged village.” We like to witness the struggles and triumphs of others. Those kinds of stories encourage us about the possibilities of life. Even negative stories lead us to think about what could have been done to turn the tide and rise above the chaos. Even children’s stories and picture books show discovery and depict growth of confidence that imply triumph, an appropriate writing goal that teaches children while entertaining them.
I believe any person can become a more powerful writer when thinking about story from the point-of-view of anxiety or all those elements that stress the characters. What intensifies anxiety and what relieves it? How do observant people use anxiety-causing action and words to complicate and manipulate others? How do problem-solvers identify anxiety-causing elements and cope with them? Awareness of all these factors makes us better writers.
Storytellers do not inherently understand and identify the best situations or stressors that will motivate the characters. Just like in our own lives, we have to analyze, consider possibilities and–in the case of storytelling—select the most dramatic that will result in a cascade of further complications.
The fun part is that we can imagine and vicariously live the stressors without actually putting ourselves at risk. We can take a real life situation that disappointed or frustrated us and “what if” the possibilities to make it turn out the way we wanted. That is a form of emotional therapy where we are in control. Another scenario is that we can vicariously live roles and adventures unlike our own real lives. The joy of storytelling is that we can share these imaginary experiences with others.
Come join me to learn how storytelling is made easier and more meaningful as I conduct Writing through the Anxiety Curve for Savvy Authors Jan 2 – 28, 2017.
Living Creatures survive because they respond to threats to their status quo. Human beings have the capacity to reason HOW they need to respond by considering the potential consequences of their choices. Stress causes many degrees of anxiety according to the person’s awareness of those consequences. Thus human beings function somewhere on “The Anxiety Curve” with uncaring Apathy at one end and totally thoughtless Panic at the other. Normal humans day-in, day-out swing from one side of the curve to the other, never lingering, always seeking balance that has been disrupted by change. But the magic of good storytelling is that the writer can REALLY disrupt the balance and challenge the character. The responses to that challenge is the story.
This course is intended to expand your awareness of how to complicate the lives of your make-believe people. Over the years I have taught this I have found a lot of participants also learn a lot about themselves.
Sally Walker’s published credits include literary, romance and western novels, a nonfiction essay collection, several creative writing textbooks, stage plays, poetry, and many magazine articles on the craft of writing, including staff contributions to two international film magazines for 10 years. With 30 screenplays written, several under negotiation at three different studios and her novel-to-screenplay adaptation on her plate, Sally has a well-respected manager representing her in Hollywood. In addition to long time active memberships in such national writing organizations as RWA, WWA and SCBWI, she was president of a state-wide writers organization 2007-2011. She keeps to a strenuous writing schedule and still has time to work as Editorial Director for The Fiction Works, supervising acquisitions and sub-contracted editors, as well as Script Supervisor for material sent to TFW’s affiliated Misty Mountain Productions. Sally has taught writing seminars, both on-site and on-line, for over 29 years and is the facilitator for the weekly meetings of the Nebraska Writers Workshop in Ralston, NE. For more information on her works and classes go to her website at http://www.sallyjwalker.com.