Number 81 — April 21, 2006
The Art of Story Planning — Part 3

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You will remember last week, I wrote that my hero would be a bumbling, inept, crime investigator. I elected, before developing story events, to explore the main character's life and attributes. After getting to know Rolland Royce, I would move on to the supporting cast. I began by examining the reasons for his career choice and if he may have had another option. The basic questions were:

  1. Why would he go into police work?
  2. Would he have a natural talent for a different occupation?

     I formulated these questions from my childhood experience. First, I was the youngest son. Second, none of my siblings showed any interest in my father's business, making me the target of his hopes. Third, I adored my father, missed his guidance and determined to follow his career path when he died shortly after my seventeenth birthday. The result? I followed his footsteps into an engineering career for which, I discovered some years later, I lacked a natural understanding of mechanics. My native ability should have taken me into teaching. (I hasten to add, I do not feel, nor have I ever felt, any regrets, or bitterness, towards my father for the way my life turned out.) My life experience resulted in these choices I made for Rolland Royce:

  1. His father is a police officer with the RCMP;
  2. He has two older sisters, making Rolland the target of his father's ambitions;
  3. His father teaches his only son about police work, making it appear as an exciting career;
  4. Rolland relegates his natural artistic talent for drawing to a less important facet of his life.

     The events leading into the story involve father teaching his son self-protection; hand-to-hand combat; firearms; tracking; and other skills associated with police work, making it seem like a game rather than a career. When Rolland is a teenager, his father dies in the line of duty. This incident evokes Rolland's determination to follow in his father's footsteps; a rationalization rather than a logical or best choice. Meanwhile, in school his artistic skill improves to a professional level, inducing a family friend to publish it. Despite this success, Rolland sets aside a possible career in the artistic field, considering it an unimportant side interest while devoting his energies to learning police work. Since the RCMP no longer investigate white-collar crime, he sees this field as an opportunity. He graduates from a Canadian University, goes to the London School of Economics in England for postgraduate work in business, and gets training in criminal investigation from Scotland Yard. When he completes his education, he returns to Canada, opens an office as an independent investigator offering security to corporations, and immediately fails. He receives an unexpected inquiry from a large Canadian bank that hires him as a security officer reporting to the president.
     Having developed some embryonic idea of where I might go with this tale, I examined two other questions:

  1. What positive character attributes would he have?
  2. What character flaws would he have?

     The answers I chose for number 1 involved a well-developed work ethic, tenacity, honesty and loyalty. That was the easy part; defining his flaws was more difficult. Eventually, after thinking about Rolland's behavior, I selected a sense of insecurity as his basic character flaw because it is commensurate with his choice of police work over his natural talent. He doubts his own abilities, which causes him to suspect others also see this character defect. His effort to disguise his suspicions evokes overprotection for his family and, in particular, jealousy about his wife's associations. Wow! When I had this idea, a new light shone on the entire concept of my story.

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Number 82 — April 28, 2006
The Art of Story Planning — Part 4

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I left you last week as a new character idea presented itself, which was the hero's jealousy of his wife's admiration of another man. Samuel Johnson wrote, "Jealousy is all the fun you think they had." Therein lies the clue to my story.
     Royce will have a college roommate who is athletic, debonair, and carefree. After Royce marries, an affinity develops between his wife and the former roommate. Now, I'm at a crossroad. What are my options? An affair or loyalty? My choice is the latter because of my inability to write about love triangles and those who masquerade behind them. As an author, I know I could not do justice to such a case. I much prefer the faithful partner, honoring marital vows and avoiding impropriety because of an emotional attachment to a third person. I believe honoring one's vows takes moral strength as opposed to succumbing to perfidious deceit.
     Remember, my story will be about the Chinese belief in the decline of American military supremacy and white-collar crime in Canada. By developing this little bit of analysis, I can now see the plot lines that look like this:

  1. The villain will be a prominent Canadian banker who conceives the plan to pollute aquifers in the US. (I will have to find a rationale for this action.);
  2. The manipulator will be the former college roommate;
  3. The crucial event will be the revelation the manipulator is the illegitimate son of the villain, which information will be withheld from the reader until the end;
  4. A Chinese man resident in Canada will be the agent who puts the plan in motion.

     The simplified story plan below is a summary of my ideas before I began creating story events. My point is simple. Having conceived this embryonic plan, I know my destination as I imagine story events, each of which will be a stepping stone towards my target of the crucial event, climax and story resolution. To avoid diversions that distract readers' absorption in the outcome, I follow two rules;

  1. All story events must have a rationale that moves the story forward in some way;
  2. I will not include any character who does not have an interest in the outcome of the story problem.

     The following summary is for presentation in this article. Actually, it would be handwritten with lots of revisions and notations over many pages.


Goals + Obstacles = Conflicts

Story events
a - b - c - etc.

Villain has a reason to implement

Story events
m - n - o - etc.

Manipulator engineers contact
between villain and Royce.

Story events
u - v - w - etc.

Chinese agent pursues subterfuge

Crucial Event

Royce learns truth about the manipulator.


Royce and Chinese agent meet face to face in final battle.


Royce learns truth about hmself; makes changes in his life.

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Number 83 — May 5, 2006
The Art of Story Planning — Part 5

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My next step is to select characters to populate my story. As I bring characters into the story, I automatically consider story events because characters and events evolve at the same time. For example, my early plan for Goad of Honor concerned the labor problems in America in the first part of the twentieth century. In the final product, labor problems became a minor issue; a means to expose character traits rather than a major story theme. That occurs because from beginning to end—including during the writing of the story—my creative juices continue to flow and new ideas continue to emerge. An analogy compares writing a novel to walking through a forest. You cannot see far in any direction, but new views keep popping up as the hike continues: a meandering creek; a high bluff; wild creatures; shadows and darkness; sunlit glades. All of these and many more bring excitement and color to the journey without hindering your ultimate destination.
     Enough! Enough! I'm getting carried away. Let's get back to characters and events.
     You have already met my main character and narrator, Rolland Royce. Here is my formulaic analysis of Royce. (This would be a good time to review Articles 15 and 16.)


Rolland Royce.


Main character and narrator.


1. To follow in his father's footsteps. From early childhood his father inculcated law enforcement as Rolland's best career choice. His father's death when Rolland is sixteen, reinforces this goal. In effect, he has been brainwashed—not maliciously—by his father.
2. In his investigative work, his goal is to expose the criminals.


Hero-worship of his father and a deep devotion to his wife and family.


His denial of his natural artistic talent. He is not quickwitted and relies heavily on others to direct his actions or lead the way. This develops a sense of insecurity, revealing jealousy of his wife's admiration of a man Rolland detests.


Good. (See article 15 for explanation.)

     I move on, bringing in new characters. The first is the villain. He is the C.E.O. of Canada's largest bank located in Toronto. Physically, he is six feet four; broad face; cleft chin; square jaw; full head of jet-black hair; clean shaven. Dynamically, he emits an image of sanguine energy and an aura of confidence. As I do with all my characters, here is his formulaic analysis.


Malcolm Stanley.




To be a legend in his own time; an influential international figure; leader among bankers and executives.


To own the world's leading collection of Oriental art.


1. Egotistical;
2. Deceptive and secretive;
3. Violent temper leading to uncontrolled emotional responses.


Evil. (See article 15 for explanation.)

     The article at the root of the story problem is a one-of-a-kind priceless ivory mosaic table acquired by Malcolm Stanley and displayed in his office. Its top is made from fossil ivory called odontolite from mammoths that lived in the Pleistocene geological epoch. Its blue color results from saturation by metallic salts. The material is very rare and very hard to find.
     I will not bore you with similar charts for every character in the book. Next week I'll move on to developing the story line.

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Number 84 — May 12, 2006
The Art of Story Planning — Part 6

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To explore the story line, I must introduce one more character; the illegitimate son of Malcolm Stanley, the villain whose name will be Bud Rosenauer. Remember, at this point, I have still not begun to write my story. I am at the stage I call "Dreaming the Story." (See Articles 13 and 14.) Here's the story line.
     The first seven years of Bud's life are as a waif living with his mother in a house of ill repute in the slums of Toronto. His mother, Mamie Rosenauer, blackmails Malcolm Stanley until, in exasperation, Stanley hires a hit man to murder her. One of Mamie's last acts is to take Bud to meet his father. She demands more money and agrees not to harass him any longer. Stanley insists she sign a release, which she does in exchange for a copy of the document. She puts this in a safety deposit box so Bud will have it for future blackmail purposes. Bud witnesses the murder of his mother, but because of his harsh upbringing among criminals in a crime-infested locality, he hides his knowledge from the police. He escapes the murder scene with the key to the safety deposit box. The police hold him, assigning him to a reform school. Despite his harsh beginnings, he graduates from high school.
     About the time he graduates, he faces his father with the signed document and demands financial support, telling Stanley he knows the identity of the murderer. Should Bud's story become public, it will incriminate Stanley and therefore the latter has no choice but to yield to Bud's demand. During the confrontation, Bud realizes his father arranged Mamie's murder. With this information, Bud changes his tactics. Backed by his father's money, he goes to college, meets Rolland Royce who plans a police career, and sees his opportunity to manipulate Royce to expose Stanley.
     My story will begin with the intention of withholding most of the foregoing information from the reader. (In composing the book, I withheld this information until chapter 30 near the end.) I will start with Bud and Rolland as college roommates for one year. They go their separate ways, Rolland hoping never to see Bud again ever in his life. Despite Rolland's loathing, Bud keeps showing up. The story line will make it appear Bud's purpose is pursuit of Rolland's wife, disguising his real mission of manipulating Rolland into a position where he believes Rolland will eventually expose Stanley's complicity in the murder.
     Now, I have a problem: What is Bud's motivation for seeking his father's downfall? I decided it was revenge. Stanley has the wherewithal with which he could have put Mamie in decent surroundings and financed Bud's education and upbringing instead of leaving them in the squalor of the underworld. Stanley is a collector of Oriental Art. The link between Stanley and the Chinese puzzles Bud. He manipulates a scheme whereby Royce becomes Stanley's personal bodyguard that eventually leads to the exposure of the Chinese scheme to destroy America through pollution of the aquifers.
     That's my story line, complicated and complex as it may be. My analogy changes to that of a road map. I see a line connecting my starting point with my final destination. I scattered a few ideas along the route just as the names of towns and places appear randomly on a road map. My task now, is to describe the scenery with imagery. I begin to write. As I do, more and more characters will enter, each to satisfy particular purposes.

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Number 85 — May 19, 2006
The Art of Story Planning — Part 7

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I begin writing the story with Royce in his second to last year of postgraduate studies at the University of Western Ontario. He moves into a boardinghouse for the semester and takes an instant dislike to the student—Rosenauer—who occupies the other room in the same home. They attend a lecture by a visiting Chinese professor who will turn out to be the leader of the gang polluting the aquifers in the US. Thus, I introduce the principals in the first chapter.
     In the second and third chapters Royce graduates, continues his education at the London School of Economics in England where he meets and marries Dorothy. No sooner do they return to Canada than Rosenauer calls to announce his graduation from law school. Royce resents the call and tells his wife about his obnoxious classmate.
     In chapter four Royce fails in business as a private investigator. He accepts a position of personal security officer for Malcolm Stanley, the president of a large bank.
     In the first four chapters, six years pass; two at University in Ontario, two in London, and two while Royce strives to set up his investigation business. Did I have any reason to extend the time? Yes. It would take that time for the lecturer to return to China, experience the brainwashing treatment and come back to Canada as an undercover insurgent with an unknown goal.
     I pause here to reiterate my thesis; my planning directed my writing without limiting it. In the early chapters, I explore my story within the bounds of my plan, developing the conflicts that will persist throughout the story. Here is the summary of the conflicts I propose to explore.


Core of Conflict

Royce and Rosenauer

Rosenauer repeatedly barging into Royce’s life. Royce struggles with Dorothy’s and Rosenauer’s mutual attraction.

Royce and Stanley

The undefined problem of Stanley's Oriental collection of priceless antiques and his interest in an undefined venture in association with the Chinese are the objects of the chase.

Royce and Dorothy

Rolland's career choice of police investigation versus natural artistic talent.

     The more I write and the deeper I delve into my story, the more events I create, most of which never occur to me during my planning phase. I do not close my mind to new ideas. On the contrary, the planning continues as I write. For instance, relocation of professional Canadian hockey teams to American cities, which happens to be a pet peeve of mine, became a side issue during the writing of the story. Negotiations about the North American Free Trade Agreement were a current political subject in 1999 that I brought into the tale although the subject never appeared in my plan. The Prime Minister of Canada discusses the negotiations and Rosenauer becomes Commissioner of a new Canadian Hockey League. These side issues lend flavor to the story through conflict and contribute to character development, while my target remains unaltered. I always move towards the crucial event I selected before I began to write.
     Let's summarize my rules by considering Jack and the Beanstalk. We start with the first conflict: sell the cow that Jack messes up by accepting the beans that his mother throws out the window. Jack climbs the beanstalk going towards the crucial event, which by definition is the final turning point leading to the climax. The crucial event is the moment Jack gets the goose. The author introduces conflicts and problems, creating suspense between the inciting conflict at the beginning and the crucial event, making the story as long or as short as preferred. After the crucial event comes the climax, which should be the most suspenseful of all the story events. Will Jack clamber down fast enough to fell the beanstalk and destroy the giant so Jack and his mother live happily ever after, or will the giant catch Jack, recover the goose and the giant lives happily ever after?
     I don't know how to make story creation any simpler, leaving plenty of leeway for creativity during the writing process.

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Number 86 — May 26, 2006
The Art of Story Planning — Part 8

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In the preceding seven articles, I explored my method of story planning. My interest lay in the method, not the details because I recognize writing is personal, not formulaic. Before I leave this topic, I want to say a few words about the opening paragraphs. Most authors know the meaning of the word hook as it applies to the opening paragraphs of a story—words a potential buyer of the book scans as he searches the bookstore shelves. If those first few words do not grab his interest, he'll put the book back and look for another. I addressed this subject in Article 7. Today I want to show you an example from my own work.
     In 1999, when I self-published The Naked Jaybird, my first book and the subject of articles 79 through 86, I began the tale with these words opening Chapter 1.

     The house stood at the end of a cul-de-sac, its two hundred-year history shrouded in unrecorded mystery, the white clapboard siding atop the ashlar foundation layered with numberless coats of paint. It resembled my birthplace on the Manitoba prairie. Broad verandas on the front and south looked across the flat terrain to the abandoned railway tracks. The elderly couple offered the perfect cloister for my reclusive tendency. They didn't advertise their two rooms for rent and I don't remember how I found them. The woman, a meticulous soul, performed the chores that I detested—shopping, cooking and laundry—for a reasonable charge. Her husband devoted his retirement to half an acre of garden and the foster care of a few thousand earthworms that he felt personally attached to and conversed with in his daily routine. He offered them at seven dollars and fifty cents a hundred, making ten or eleven sales a year.
     My two-year postgraduate course in business administration started the week after I moved in. The day before lectures began, an extrovert named Bud Rosenauer occupied the other room. Our academic goals and contrary life-styles were so divergent our human chemistry didn't work. After the first week of superficial friendship, I found him boorish and couldn't imagine how he selected such a place. His compulsion to confess details of seductive capers that bordered on teenage vulgarity sickened me, yet he often surprised me with acts of generosity …

     I recently edited the original version and gave it a new title, Intrigue to Destroy America, and published it as a free e-book. Because of the weak opening above, I revised it to begin the book with the following paragraphs.

     America, the dominant superpower in the world at the end of the twentieth century, unexpectedly provoked by anger and frustration into a war against terrorism, chose to involve itself in a crusade to spread democracy throughout the world. It is not my place to judge the wisdom of their militant zeal and aggression in the Middle East for I was involved in a different battle, not by my own choosing, propelling me into a far more critical matter, seemingly of secondary import to America during the first decades of the twenty-first century. Granted, Americans gave lip service to the environment, but the voices of concerned scientists were as cries in the wilderness. Meanwhile, a small group of dedicated insurgents, working across the northern border in Canada, became involved in an unimaginable intrigue that, except for the egocentricity of their leader, could well have destroyed America.
     For a long time, I believed my involvement was a matter of fate. As the youngest child, and only son, of a Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer, my father ingrained in me the desire to follow his footsteps. I think to the surprise of most Canadians, in the last year of my undergraduate studies, the R.C.M.P. announced a plan in which they would cease to investigate white-collar crime, leaving it to the corporations to police themselves. I viewed this as a great opportunity and turned myself towards a degree in economics and business administration that I might become an independent and qualified private investigating consultant, offering my services to large corporations. So it was I found a boardinghouse in London, Ontario as I began my two-year post-graduate study at the University of Western Ontario.
     The house stood at the end of a cul-de-sac, its two hundred-year history shrouded in unrecorded mystery, the white clapboard siding atop the ashlar foundation layered with … and so on more or less as originally written.


     In the original opening, I failed to arouse the curiosity of a casual reader scanning the first page. In the new version, I deliver the information the story is about somebody investigating insurgents trying to use the environment to destroy America. As I have often repeated in this series, I do not suggest my own work is the supreme example, but rather I present it as an illustration of the point I'm trying to show. In the present case, I have no evidence to suggest my revision is an improvement since I no longer sell books.

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Number 87 — June 2, 2006
Exploring Critiques

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For several years, while offering free comments on writing, I have searched for a technique to help authors, as opposed to being an irritant. Sometimes, I think it's an impossible task because I am always butting against the author's time value—see article 58—even when I preface my recommendations with remarks such as:

  • These comments are for consideration as a possible improvement to the work and the author should not construe them as a condemnation in any sense.
  • The author should not feel insulted, ridiculed, or degraded because of this critique.

     A recent response to a critique produced this reply (in part): "Although, I took many of (your comments) to heart and plan to make some changes, I didn't agree with the majority (because) I don't think you (took) the voice into consideration when you read the piece. There are many mistakes in it, granted, … ." The response fascinates me by admitting many mistakes, but clearly offended because I pointed them out. I consider this a more or less typical reaction and I am not offended. The author offered to entertain a discussion of my critique, which I appreciated and accepted because I wanted to explain critiquing from my point of view.
     The author was correct about my neglect of voice. I do not search for it in my first assessment for a reason. I am oriented initially towards technical considerations of writing; word choice, sentence structure and the various constituents that create imagery and emotion, the two fundamentals of creative writing. I also look for consistency. I think those are the elements that result in voice, but I do not believe voice is a characteristic on which to base a first judgment. As it happens, however, when the piece is largely error-free, the voice stands out and seldom needs comment, other than to compliment it's presence.
     I compare the voice of a story (or writer, if you will) to the music of a symphony, which arises from many different instruments emitting multiple sounds. If one of those sounds is off key, or if, for example, a brass instrument accidentally blasts out because the musician lost his place, or any one of a zillion other mistakes happens, then the symphony is a failure. In writing, words, sentence structure, phraseology and so on are the instruments that combine to produce the story. I contend when they contain mistakes, are out of kilter, or lack consistency, they obscure the voice.
     I belong to a book-reading club in which I play no part in selecting the books. Month after month, I'm astonished how lacking the books are in adherence to fundamental writing principles. Granted, my book club reads a minuscule sample of what is available, but still they are a random sampling of somebody's choosing. Most of the errors I find relate to the same technicalities I keep harping on. Then lo and behold, here comes a book where the words just flow, enrapturing me and I forget about details and hear the voice. It doesn't happen often and I would surely like to know how to tell authors to capture it. In my view, to reach the top as a good writer, it is essential to remove errors. It is, in fact, the only way. Get the fundamentals right, or as nearly so as reasonably possible, and the voice will follow naturally. I cannot excuse errors as justified by voice. To make this clear, we must understand the kinds of errors I refer to.

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Number 88 — June 9, 2006
Evaluating Writing

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People emote, think, and move. How skillfully authors blend these characteristic distinctions controls the success of their writing. These, then, are the three objects of my consideration when evaluating stories.
     Number one is emotional content; a judgment of emotion experienced by the characters and whether I, as a reader, feel that emotion. John Gardner wrote the following in his famous book The Art of Fiction; "The primary subject of fiction is human emotion …."      In the introduction to his best-seller The Life of Pi, Yann Martell tells about writing a prior novel he described as having "sparkling plot and characters so real they needed birth certificates." After he completed the work, he felt it amounted to nothing. "An element was missing," he wrote, "the spark that brings to life a real story …" The fault? His story was emotionally dead by his own judgment. What did he mean? Again, the ghost of John Gardener; "If your story is to succeed, it must overflow with emotional impact."
     Number two is to assess the degree to which the writer has used internalization. The unique feature of creative writing compared with other art forms is exploring characters' thoughts. In real life, our thoughts pass through our minds in rapid succession. In fiction, we slow thinking down, examining it thread by thread. So I ask, "What does this character think about … whatever?" When I find it in the story, I conclude I am probably reading a story with memorable characters.
     Number three is the degree to which the author inserts action into the scene, integrating it with the first two, thereby creating imagery.
     Let's consider a simple example. "I was writing at my desk." Can you see me? Can you picture what I'm doing? Only to a limited degree. I'll expand the scene. "I heard the buzz, stopped typing, and listened to the increasing intensity of the alarming noise through the open window. It continued for maybe five minutes, then died. I cringed in the sudden silence." Can you see me now? Are you afraid?
     Here's a possible setting. The year is 2006. I live in an isolated section of Alabama. Three days ago a swarm of African bees killed a man a mile from my home. As author of this developing scene, my writing must answer these questions so the reader may share my experience;

  • What thoughts do I have?
  • What emotions do I feel?
  • What do I do?

     Suppose I change the scene. The year is 1944. I live on the top floor of a three-story walk-up in central London, England during the blitzkrieg. In both situations, action results. In response to the bees, I close the window; in response to the bomb, I head for the shelter. But in each scenario, the reader must feel my fear and hear my thinking in order to understand my action.
     When a scene delivers those three ingredients, the reader will share the emotional impact of the experience and will judge the story a success.
     In addition, certain qualities usually reviewed by the copy editor, merit my attention in a critique. They are:

  • Punctuation, grammar, and sentence structure;
  • Imaginative word choice;
  • And conciseness, redundancy and verbosity.

     These are the qualitative elements I look for as essential to a well-written tale. They are also happen to be the main considerations for the author to evaluate during the revision process before declaring the work complete.

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Number 89 — June 16, 2006
Infusing Emotion — Part 1

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Generalizations about writing preached by people like me always come down to the same question in the end: "But how do I do it?" Today, I offer an example of introducing emotion into a story. It comes from my own writing. As always, I caution readers to evaluate the technique rather than judging the quality of my writing.
     Here is the first draft of a passage from my novel Bent Coin, which I am currently rewriting. Jack is a forty-something-year-old father; wounded in the Civil War; illiterate, drinker, and womanizer. Joe is his fourteen-year-old son. The year is 1871.

     Joe didn't want the farm. He didn't care much for his father neither; nor what happened to him. He respected the old man's work ethic, ignoring Jack's drinking and carousing. Maybe it relieved the old man's pain and suffering, or substituted a different kind of pain and suffering. No matter what, Jack intended to quit the farm. He had only to get through the last winter of milking and feeding; that'd be it. But Joe didn't have any idea which way to go or where to turn to get away. Maybe if he just told his dad he didn't want any part of it, maybe his dad would change his mind.

     Note the preceding paragraph contains internalization by two characters. The first begins with Joe's thoughts, then shifts to Jack's [underlined], then back to Joe. This kind of waffling weakens the writing by interrupting the flow of the story, and incidentally violates my rule of one point-of-view character per scene. Let's try again. [I'll note the emotions I'm trying to introduce in parentheses.]

     Joe didn't care much for his father, his dislike aggravating his wish to find a life outside the bonds of drudgery. [Despair] Somewhere was something better than farming. [Hope] Grandfather Andrew cleared the land, built his home and a stable, tilled the soil, tended the animals, reaped the crops and dropped dead before his time. Nothing deterred Jack from getting the work done either; not the pains and aches, not the weather, not the hangovers, not a single excuse, but would his destiny be the same—to drop dead before his time? [Despair restated] Joe couldn't condemn his father who served in the war. [Forgiveness] He excused Jack's drinking, smoking and carousing, believing they relieved his father's pain and suffering, or substituted a different kind of pain and suffering. [Sympathy] He respected his father's work ethic the same way he respected his grandfather's, but there had to be a better way. [Hope restated]

     Now, we see a clearer image of an emotionally mixed-up boy. We understand Joe's thoughts because we are inside his head, listening to him argue with himself. We feel his four emotions: despair, hope, forgiveness and sympathy. At the end of the passage, we sense his determination to escape. We do not need the author to tell us, "Joe didn't want the farm." We see him in the trap, disdaining his father's behavior, but showing sympathy and forgiveness, and we know his choice is not to be a farmer. Joe doesn't want to disappoint his father, but he knows he must find a better way of life. The overarching emotion is hope offsetting his despair. As the story continues, we'll see Joe escape and create a life of his own.
     The result of the rewrite is a glimpse of Joe's character. This is how to use emotion to develop characters a reader will remember and the author will be proud of without a single word of physical description. Perhaps, most important of all, I did not use terms such as; Joe thought … , Joe felt … , Joe sensed … , and similar tags that serve only to spell out the obvious.
     Creating Character Emotions by Ann Hood gives us thirty-six emotions to consider. She provides good and bad examples of each. Here is her list.























Love (Child)




Love (Romance)










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Number 90 — June 23, 2006
Infusing Emotion — Part 2

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In the previous article, I showed how I used internalization to depict the emotions of a young man rationalizing his future. As I continue, I want to show you Jack, the boy's father. Throughout the remainder of this article, internalization is underlined.
     When Jack was thirteen, his father discovered his sixteen-year-old daughter, Jane, in the hayloft with a boy. He flies into a rage. The scene ends with the following paragraph.

     Trundling homeward in silence, save for the clip-clop of the hoofs, Jack gaped at his father in bewilderment. Why was the old man in such a rage? He was married. He forced Jane and Jim to marry. Was this some kind of punishment? Must be. The old man was so mad he couldn't talk, so something about marriage must be wrong. Jack's shoulders hunched and he put his hand over his mouth to conceal his smile. [Action sentence.] How was Jim going to explain to his parents, he left home for Sunday Service in the morning and came back a married man at suppertime.

     The foregoing internalization is as important for what it doesn't say, as what it does. Jack interpreted his father's outburst as a condemnation of marriage instead of a condemnation of pre-marital sex. A page or two later after Jack has grown up and his parents have died:

     The variety of local pleasures and the ease of arranging them surely proved marriage was nothing except religious lunacy. A few beers, an occasional meal, maybe a wild flower or two bought the joys of female companionship, which seemed readily available at any time. Why did anyone marry when the most likely results were enormous expense and constant battles?

     As a result of his escapades, Jack fathers a child he calls Joe. His sister and her husband find the situation hilarious. Then comes this passage.

     What did Jane mean? Why did she and Jim laugh? It sure wasn't funny. Was he supposed to be ashamed or guilty? He wasn't; he was downright ready to slay that woman, whoever she was. Look at the mess he was in now. What was he supposed to do? He couldn't kill the thing, or throw it in the manure heap, or even sell it. What would he do with the thing when he was out in the fields all day? What about Saturday nights? Jim never got drunk; he had to stay home with all them kids. Gawd! Jack didn't want to be a father, but what was he to do?

     Finally, we have this passage after Jack comes home from the Civil War.

     Much to Jack's surprise, he developed a sense of guilt. Even more astonishing was his affection for Joe. It puzzled him. Somehow fatherhood made a fellow feel proud. Maybe it came from being responsible for creating another human being. Could this be the part of marriage nobody told him about; the part explaining it; the part he hadn't ever understood?

     Each underlined sentence is internalization showing Jack's emotional growth from an immature farm boy to an adult, albeit one with a lifestyle few would admire. From there, the story continues until we learn about Joe's emotional reaction to life on the farm as presented in last week's article.
     Here's the punch line: By using this technique of internalization—getting inside the head of the point-of-view character—I gave the story a mind. By that I mean intelligence in the sense that readers have a deeper appreciation for the story through experiencing the emotions of the characters.
     Dramatica, A New Theory of Story uses the term "The Story Mind," described in part as follows: " … it works … like our own minds, bringing many conflicting considerations to bear on the issue."
     Now, let's return to Ann Hood and Creating Character Emotions. While I have had this book on my shelf for several years, only recently did I realize that many, if not most, of Hood's good examples are internalization. This revelation suggests before writing a particular scene, jot down the emotions the point-of-view character will experience. Then as you write your conflict / action / resolution sequences in each scene, introduce internalization to show the emotions you selected. You will be surprised how your story will flower and improve.
     Internalization—character's thoughts—mixes well with authorial comment—character's actions or the circumstances surrounding the action. Look at the first sentence in the passage at the top of page 136, beginning with trundling homeward, an authorial comment that complements perfectly Jack's thinking in the rest of the paragraph.

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