Real life stories

Linda’s blog June 15th

I’ve read that quite a number of people are keeping diaries during the Coronavirus lockdown. It is, after all, an unprecedented happening in our lifetime, one that will become part of our history. If you are writing a diary, your thoughts and observations will undoubtedly be of interest to family and friends in the future. If you are thinking of writing a short story, or even a novel, set during the lockdown, then make sure you have a STORY to tell.

Lockdown is the BACKGROUND or SETTING to any stories.

  • We’ve all been missing special people: having to wave to grandchildren through a window; not being able to visit sick relatives in hospital or care home; separated from partners; not able to enjoy a meal out with friends.
  • Many people will have lost their jobs, be furloughed, or have their income cut.
  • We can all commiserate about shopping experiences – long queues, empty shelves, one-way systems around the supermarket, online shopping.

All these incidents will make our fiction ring true – real life. But that’s not enough: stories are about A PERSON who wants SOMETHING, faces CHALLENGES and, by the end, HAS CHANGED.

By the end of lockdown, we might all realise what is really important to us – perhaps family over job; savings rather than holidays; friends rather than acquaintances; talking rather than TV. And, of course, apart from losing loved ones, there will be distressing outcomes: marriages that aren’t worth saving; relationships that aren’t working; jobs that aren’t satisfying; friends who aren’t who you thought they were. These are the sort of CHANGES that must figure in your stories: if your protagonist doesn’t change, there is no point to the story.

This process of change is called the CHARACTER ARC. It maps the change in the protagonist’s personality throughout your story. It’s not about plot and action; it’s an internal, personal development. That only happens when your protagonist is faced with challenges (problems, difficulties etc) and their strengths, skills, weaknesses and flaws are tested.  What decisions your protagonist makes will determine what happens physically but, more importantly, what happens to them internally, as a person.

Scarlett O’Hara starts Gone with the Wind as a fickle young woman who wants Ashley Wilkes. She ends the story, having lost two husbands and Ashley, a stronger woman, determined to save Tara through her own efforts.

Elizabeth Bennett in Pride and Prejudice overcomes her mistaken first impressions of Darcy to find happiness.

Bilbo Baggins, Harry Potter, Luke Skywalker and Ebeneezer Scrooge are other examples of fictitious characters who change through the course of their stories. Some are epics, their characters developing over many books and films. But even in short stories, make sure your main character CHANGES.

As lockdown rules are eased, please do stay safe and healthy.

And keep writing!



One thought on “Real life stories

  1. How true, Linda. As ever insightful and helpful advice for writers. Sometimes it’s difficult to unravel a plot from an arc, especially in times like these which, on the face of it seem to offer ready-made conflict for chaRacters.


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