The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Monday, January 07, 2013

Character, Plot, and Poetics

Happy New Year! And I'm starting this year by starting over from the beginning, re-establishing the entire framework of Lifewriting for Writers, and then applying to specific instances--popular films, and my own work. Then...we'll have fun taking questions. Ready?

Well, first of all, we have the concept that we treat our lives and careers as a story that we are writing, and that we write about issues, philosophical questions and emotions that are important in our own lives. In that way, everything we do to improve our lives makes us better writers, and everything we do to improve our writing makes us better human beings. Simple, but hard.

So. Next we take a look at the three major aspects of writing that have to be addressed: character, plot and poetics. Character equals the people involved, plot involves the way they interact with their story world. Poetics involves the linguistic and image systems used to convey the information.

I take the emotional position that there are two things to write about: human beings, and the world that they perceive. Who and what people are, and what the world is. How we know what we know, and think what we think...and what there is to know and think and feel about. The maps of internal and external reality, and our attempts to navigate them with grace and poise.

In other words...create a world, and a character. Make them in harmony with each other, then throw them out of whack. Show his efforts to put his life back together. The way the world responds will demonstrate your philosophy of the nature of existence, or the meaning of society.

Or...take someone who is OUT of balance with his world. Give him a shot at improving his life. If he takes it, you are making one statement. If he doesn't, you've taken another. If he tries, and succeeds, another. Fails, another. Gets something totally different, but good, yet another.

The way you detail human beings, and the way you look at life, and the world, are central, and underlie much of what you can ever say about people and the world they live in. The clearer you are on what YOU think of these things, the clearer your own theories and beliefs, the easier it will be to create vibrant characters and people your world with them. Do that...and your work is half done!



lionscourt said...

Mr. Barnes,
I have long been a fan of your writing. I just finished an urban fantasy for 'tweens' and am interested in your opinions and support. The book features inner-city troubled youth, martial art scenes, and historical fantasy.
A drive-by goes very wrong and the fate of Abraham Lincoln and the US hangs in the balance.
A. Ray

lionscourt said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
lionscourt said...

The Descent of Anansi was great, particularly the strength of description from the viewpoint of the predator.