Author Topic: A Story Within a Story - A Writing Challenge.  (Read 161 times)


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A Story Within a Story - A Writing Challenge.
« on: April 23, 2019, 03:33:43 PM »
The dust has barely settled on our last prompt— me? I’m still writing my response— but here we are. Another day, another prompt.

I don’t want to keep you in suspense, so without further ado:

A Story Within a Story

(Note: I immediately retract my statement, by the by, about not wanting to keep you in suspense. Y’all ‘bouta get a dissertation now. You can probably skip this part and go straight to the details but it might help you understand what exactly I’m looking for here.)

A Preface

The influence that a story, even a simple story, has in shaping an individual and their identity is tremendous. I think that we, as writers, can see this clearly through the echoes of stories we’ve read/heard/etc. in our own work, but it’s something that holds true even for your average person, whether they— and we— realize it or not. Stories inform belief, morality, ideology. They give us answers to the questions we can’t always answer ourselves and reaffirm the notions that we already hold. Everything, really. (I have, in fact, written multiple essays on this subject— maybe not “academic level” work but it’s something I’ve thought a lot about andd could talk for hours about.) Basically, a person is, in essence, a collection of stories, stories that others have told them and stories that they tell themselves.

Why is this important for us, as writers? Simply put, a good character is a person. That may seem like an obvious statement, but all too often you see characters who are clearly just that. Characters— individuals created to be a vehicle for plot, add color and flavor to the setting, or populate a world so that it doesn’t seem empty. Essentially, characters are all too often a whole lot of function with very little form. Function is important— every character needs a purpose and if they don’t have a real puropse their presence can detract from the story. (*cough*rose*cough*starwars*cough*.) That being said, the best characters, I think, have a bit of both function and form. Function being purpose, form being believability, relatability, etc.— humanity, or personhood, if you will. So if a good character is a person, and a person is made up of stories, then a good character must, on some level, be also made up of a collection of stories. I’m not talking just backstory here— though that is undeniably part of it, because what story is more influential than the story that we experience? Every character has beliefs, worldviews, wishes, hopes, desires that come from somewhere that give them a semblance of humanity and make them seem like a real person. That somewhere isn’t always discussed because it’s not always thought about. Today, I want you to think about that somewhere.

The Prompt

(Note: I’ll be following Matra’s prompt format fairly closely here, because I think it was very clear and answered everything before it was asked.)

Create a character, or take one that you have already written/are already writing, and have them tell a story. This story can be about anything and in any form— a silly ditty about bees, an epic poem about great warriors of the past, reminiscing about the days of yore, etc. etc. etc.— but what I want to see here is how this story that they are telling reveals something about them. Show us through their actions and dialogue, through the world around them, how they react to the story. I want the story that they tell to paint a picture not just of itself, but of its storyteller. This is, I guess, just a glamorized writing excercise, which is why I decided not to make it a competition. But I’m looking for specific things, which I’ve told you all about. Which makes it, at the very least, something of a challenge.

The Reward

You get a trademark Vin review— that is, only minimal grammar advice, wildly subjective, and with a big focus on characterization (which is maybe a given because of the prompt). You will receive this review fairly quickly, by my standards— within the week at the very latest, though I’m gonna push for within a day or so.

The 411

Due Date: May 15th. This gives you a solid 3 weeks to write and, maybe a little selfishly, means that I don’t have to worry about reading and reviewing until after I’ve finished all my finals.

Submission: Submit to me by PM, or a Google Docs link if that’s something you prefer. As long as I can access the story easily and copy/paste it quickly, I’m happy.

Word count restrictions: I’m gonna be a bit wild and say technically none, but I’m also assuming that nobody’s out here trying to submit a 10000 word epic. Please note that if you submit something over a couple thousand words, it might take me a wee bit longer to read and review. However, since I have had a request for an "unofficial word count", I think an optimum word count would be somewhere between 1,500 and 3,000 words, depending on what kind of story your character is going to tell (are they singing a song? preforming a whole play?).

What do I need? You need a character, a story, and a story for the character to tell in that story. Secondary characters and plot are optional.

A couple of tips:

- Remember that this is all about characterization. The character is focal point of the piece and the most important thing here. Your main story can have a plot if that’s something you’re willing to tackle but I want a portrait of the character more than I want a shocking twist or hair-raising scheme.
- Secondary characters can be vital here because they can help show the inner workings of the primary character. Have the secondary character react to the story, and then have the primary character react to the reaction. All of a sudden, we know more about the primary character than we did before because we know what the story means to him.
- The story within the story doesn’t have to make sense. It doesn’t have to be complete. It can have clear bias or lack thereof. Remember, it’s a reflection of the character.
- Create your character first— values, longings, beliefs etc.; this will help you shape the story within your story.

Preemptive FAQ:

“What does my story within a story have to be about?”
Anything. The key here isn’t so much the story itself but how the story informs character.

“Will other people know that I wrote it?”
Only if you want them to. I will be posting them anonymously, but if you feel like revealing yourself feel free.

“Is this a Redwall Contest?”
No. If Redwall is something that you want to write then by all means write Redwall, but you are free to use any character and any world that you want.

“Whoops. I pulled a Vin and missed the deadline. What now?”
Don’t worry— you’ll still receive a review as long as you either a) submit it to me or b) post it either here or elsewhere. That being said, it will go to the bottom of the reviewing order and you may have to wait a good long while for me to actually get it out, depending on my schedule come May.

“What if I don’t want a review?”
Fair is fair. Just let me know.

“What if I want you to focus your review on certain things?”
Fair? Still fair. Again, let me know.

“I have things to say about one of the entries. Can I review them too?”
Absolutely. Just remember— and this is for posterity because I’m sure I don’t have to tell you this— be respectful and constructive.

“Is writing all of this just for a review from a university student who only just started his english major actually…worth it?”
Up to you, I guess. The main purpose of this prompt was to inspire you to explore the process by which you characterize your, well, characters. If I’ve done that, my work is mostly done. The rest is on you.

"I don't buy it. This theory of characterization seems a little wack to me."
 ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ It's all subjective, isn't it?

"Did you overuse the pink? I can barely read some of these FAQs."
Probably. But pink is my trademark, doncha know.
« Last Edit: April 23, 2019, 04:09:28 PM by Vin »