by Tom Ward
The Volunteer centers on one man’s struggle to find inner peace. And examines the question of what compels volunteers to respond no matter what time of day or night, to sacrifice their time, financial resources, their talents, and even their lives in the service of their communities.
Someone asked me this week if I thought fiction writing could be "taught?" Since I taught fiction writing for 28 years the answer seems obvious. But... after some thought, I came up with the following ideas.
As with writing anything, Writing Techniques Can be Taught. Simple things like, don't use the same word again in the same sentence (some say on the same page), and don't let characters go upstairs when they are Already Upstairs, or give a character blue eyes on one page and brown ones on another.
But going on from there, there are no hard and fast rules about how it Should Be Done.
When I taught Fiction Writing, I told my students to "begin with an outline." Yet I, myself, have never been able to do that and only write outlines once a story is completed.
If toward the end of the story, I find I need a "telling detail" to foreshadow something that happens back in Chapter One, I just go back and put that in earlier in. I am not a linear thinker.
Other, and usually more productive, people have to know all those details before they start. THEY never end up with drawers full of half-finished projects where they lost the thread, either, but we all do it however we can. One way or the other, Fiction Writing is born in us.
I'm reminded of that old question from Psych 101, where the professor said, "A kid is lost in the woods. I can give you beaters to comb the brush, or a helicoptor to try to spot him from the air, which would you choose?"
About 90 percent of the class chose the beaters. Those of us who took the arial view were told we were "right brain" creative people, but lacked logic, because the woods might be too dense to see our kid from the air, while the beaters would search every inch.
The "beaters" were told they were "left brain" people who had little imagination. They looked at life logically and took things one step at a time, but they lacked the ability to see the whole or the end result, rather than just the first immediate next step.
I don't believe those who are "left-brain" lack in creativity or imagination. I know some wonderful writers who are able to outline in detail and who write two to five books a year. I also know how hard I've tried to do that and how flat my efforts have fallen.
The important part of this tip is -- there's no wrong way to do it. Write using whatever method works best for your individual talent. Don't force yourself into a mold created by someone else's expectations of how it "Should Be Done.
Like The Volunteer in the story above, if you chose to write fiction, go on and do as much as you can and give it your best effort.