Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Start with the Monster

A few days ago, I wrote this post about the fiction lunch I had with my Indian friend.  She teaches both Mythology and Fairy Tales (mainly the Grimm brothers), and she has her students write their own stories too.

She had some great techniques, and I'll list them here, so as not to forget them.  She says that in her culture, the sacred is rather abstract, while the monster is concrete.  So she always has her students start with describing the monster.

It makes a lot of sense.  Once you know what kind of monster your characters face, you'll know what kind of weapons they need, what kind of houses they'll need to live in, what their deepest fears are, what their dreams for the future would be.

This approach seems more applicable to fairy tale and fantasy, but she took me through another exercise.

We talked about our current lives and what our monsters would look like.  I said, "A mist."

Her eyes lit up.  "What kind of mist?"

"Sometimes it's barely visible, and other times it's quite opaque and solid."

"What kind of weapons would defeat it?"

I mentioned attitudes and such, but she didn't like that answer.  I didn't come up with any good weapons, but I am intrigued by the idea of mist as enemy.

And I like this approach to figuring out the conflict by beginning with the monster.

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