All writers have a process that allows them to create. However, the art of "Writing" is often mistaken for that "Process." Hopefully this blog explains the difference, and inspires people to develop their crafts, become writers, or just keep on writing.

Monday, May 15, 2023

Different Kinds of the Same Story

It is with a heavy heart that I announce my lawn mower died. I had prepped myself to mow the lawn before the rain came in, but when I brought out the mower, she wouldn’t start. I tried everything, including the last-resort overhaul, but there was no get-up-and-go left. After twenty years, she had mowed her last blade of grass. I made my peace with the situation, put her back together, and left her at the end of the driveway before leaving to buy a new mower. When I returned an hour later, someone had picked her up and taken her to a better place. Life went on.

When I bring all this up, it’s not to drum up sympathy for the lost of my lawn appliance. I am using this story as a foundation piece for discussing how different approaches can push stories in different directions. Obviously, the intro paragraph is the skeleton for taking a simple loss and turning it into a dramatic, emotional story. But what if I want something more action-packed? How about funny? Farcical? All these things are possible if we make certain choices about how to present the facts and what details need to be discussed or buried.

Let’s look at action. Action writing is all about tension. It’s about all the obstacles rising to prevent a goal from being achieved, and the active role of the main character in overcoming those setbacks. In a lawn-mower action story, the goal of mowing the lawn is important, but there needs to be more obstacles. What threatens the goal of a mown lawn? Well, more emphasis on the incoming rain would be a start – that’s definitely going to ruin the party. I could also add about how the village code enforcement trucks were driving around, looking for overgrown lawns to write up. Mix those together with the actions required to achieve the goal – trying time and again to start the engine, quickly taking it apart all while spying around for the village trucks, and turning again and again toward those gray clouds looming larger on the horizon. That tension builds an action story every time.

Funny stories are different. While conflict and tension are required, the vibe should be lighter, looking at the amusing contradictions in play. An amusing story would light of all these factors conspiring to prevent me from that one hour of joy I have mowing the lawn. I decide to mow the lawn, then see the weather is going to turn. I push forward anyway, now the mower won’t start. Wait – I can rebuild these things! Nope, it turns out I can’t in this case. 

And of course, farcical can go anywhere, as long as it is somewhere different from the realistic. In cases such as this, the lawn mower could be personified, making its last plea for death after its years of honorable service. Maybe it’s had enough, and refuses to cut another blade of grass under my tyranny. Maybe it’s the gods working their magic to make sure their grand plan works, but that requires my lawn to remain overgrown for one more day. In any case, the last thing that should be emphasized is the practical. Let the madness or the creative spirits run free, all swirling around the foundation of something simple and reasonable.

Whatever the case may be, the new mower is in its place and ready for hopefully twenty years of service. And as for the old mower, no matter what its fate was after getting picked up at the edge of the street, it will live on in stories.

No comments:

Post a Comment