Character Entrance 4: Report

This method of character introduction brings a character on stage by reporting how other characters perceive him. Therefore, who the character is or eventually becomes to the reader is who other characters in the story say he is.

This method works best when you want to introduce a public figure into your story. A celebrity, for example. Commonly, famous people have a public image usually known to everyone in the story world. And sometimes, even before the character steps into the story, his name or what other characters know him by glides through the story from the other characters’ viewpoints.

Also, Reporting as a Character Entrance method doesn’t have to be restricted to famous characters alone. As long as you want your readers to see the character for the first time through other characters, this method will serve you.

Example:

That night, when Christian Fall fell off the bridge, everyone who heard knew that it wasn’t because he had been drinking. They couldn’t remember a night when Christian wasn’t drunk, especially since Helen, his wife, died on their wedding night. Tonight, the little towners feel both guilty and relieved. The only financial and emotional charity case they have lay bloated on the riverbank. Dead. Now, they must find another. Because they must continue to be good people.

We would love to hear your views on this creative writing key in the comments. See you following Monday for the creative writing key on Character Entrance 5.

The “Beginning” Lie (Part II)

Now that you know what story beginnings are, and how to craft one for your story, let’s look into one more likely misunderstanding you could have about beginnings just by the very nature of the word.

In the last creative writing key, I told you that every story runs on the wheels of time. And that is exactly what stories are. A chronology of events powered by the idea of causality. A story is like falling dominoes that do not tip backwards, only forwards. A push causes a fall that causes a push and so it continues until there are no more dominoes left standing. That’s a story.

Looking deeper into this very nature of stories, you’ll find another lie, or another likely misunderstanding you could have about the five Ws (Who, What, When, Where and Why) of how to begin a story. A story is a chronology, and since chronologies by their very nature already have beginnings, you cannot begin a story.

You cannot begin what already has a beginning.

I bet you’re thoroughly confused right now. And confused is exactly what I need you to be because confusion is an essential necessity if clarity must dawn. So, stay with me a little longer to understand fully our five-week long conversation on how to begin storytelling.

To clear your confusion, we will need to explain the difference between story and plot. You already know that a story is a chronology of events powered by causality. You should hold the image of falling dominoes in your mind. Plot, on the other hand, is what you do when you tell a story. What does this mean?

It simply means with the fall of the first domino, even the simplest mind knows how the story is going to end. Plot on the other hand, introduces a mystery to story by cloaking the end, and sometimes, the beginning. Therefore, the art of storytelling in it’s essential core, is plotting.

Much like story and it’s image of falling dominoes, plot conjures the image of a rail line or a number line which progresses from left to right, or diminishes from right to left. But unlike falling dominoes, a train can go from left to right or from right to left. And when the train is particularly happy and wants to scare it’s passengers, it finds a track switch. Also, in a number line, you either count from zero towards your right or towards your left. And when you’re particularly feeling like Einstein, you can backtrack with a subtraction or shoot ahead with a multiplication.

My point with all of this is that when you think of how to begin your storytelling, think of it as a question of plot, not a chronology. Stories (chronology) already have beginnings. It is the telling (plot) of the story (chronology) that you need to figure out how to begin.

And the five Ws is simply saying you can begin anywhere. You can start from the end and backtrack to the beginning. You can start from the beginning, jump to the end and backtrack to the middle. Simply put, you are free to be Einstein.

In summary, as a storyteller, you don’t begin a story. Stories already have beginnings. You begin a plot, and frame it with structure.

P.S:

We will discuss the storytelling element of structure in details soon.

The “Beginning” Lie (Part I)

I hate to break it to you right after the five long weeks I took to share with you the five W’s (Who, What, When, Where and Why) you can explore to begin writing your story. There is no such thing as a beginning to storytelling.

Yes! I’ve been lying to you all along.

Come to think of it, is there really a beginning to any story when even the dead end of all beginnings also assumes the existence of a character that predates the said beginning?

The hoax about beginnings occurred to me a few weeks ago while sharing ideas with a colleague on the spin-off series exploring the genesis of her latest fantasy series, Age Of The Anathema. I found that no matter how far behind we stretched into the series, there always seems to be a vague pre-story lying even farther behind.

I found that the idea of beginnings was a mirage. When I chase it down to where I thought it pooled, it jumps ahead into a dim section of stale history.

So, there is no beginning. The events of the last few weeks about storytelling beginnings were all a lie… But that’s only if your thoughts strayed to consider our conversations from this unfortunate perspective. Yeah, I lied to you, or I could be telling the truth.

You see, the point of today’s creative writing key is to call out this likely misunderstanding that you could have about the topic of how to begin writing your story.

When we talk about beginnings, we refer to the point at which the telling begins, not necessarily the genesis of the story. In the context of storytelling, the genesis and the beginning of your story mean two different things. While genesis is obsessed with finding the history, beginnings worry about What the first words of your story shall tell. Or about Whom they shall tell. Or about Where they tell. Or about When in time they tell. Or about Why they tell.

All things considered, I didn’t lie to you about how you could begin your story. Everything I told you only becomes a lie if the concept of Beginning and Genesis means the same thing to you.

So, I take back my words, there is a beginning to all storytelling. The pre-story histories are important to provide the backstory and rationale for the characters’ choices and actions.

However, I think there is no such thing as Genesis. And if there is, it’s the part of a story that can’t be told by man but God. For he alone knows what it means to exist without having begun. The idea of genesis is an idea of stories that predate time, and no man tells a story without running on the wheels of time. God is not man. Fortunately he was called an author somewhere in the Bible. But even his genesis story started with the creation of time and not the timeless age from which he emerged.

The viewpoint character

Every story has an aim or reason driving its telling. The purpose of a story informs the perspective from which it is told. Point of view simply asks, from whose eyes shall your readers witness the events that make up your story?

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