Combining the Old with the New (Aristotle with David Farland)

Posted: May 29, 2011 in Uncategorized
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Writing Advice

Below I mishmash wisdom from New York Times Bestselling author David Farland with a bit of Aristotle’s Six Elements of Drama (taught in theater, and it SHOULD be taught in writing classes, lol!)

The “writerly wisdom” below is what I’m going to use while writing my next story. I used the information for a werewolf story I recently wrote for a friendly competition among 8 writing friends. While my werewolf story isn’t great, these techniques have definitely helped my writing improve. You may not care what I’m doing concerning writing, and that’s fine. But then, this isn’t MY wisdom: it’s the wisdom of the Old and New (Ancient Aristotle and Fabulous Farland).

-I’m trying to let my character grow/evolve out of the world he lives in. If he’s a werewolf, what sort of world did he grow up in? That world changed him. Is he paranoid and suspicious because of a Big Brother Government trying to track him down? Or is he proud and boisterous, enjoying life at the “top of the food chain?” Is he remorseful for losing control and murdering people who seem like sheep to him? Or is he in control of his gift/curse?

-What bloodline goes into my werewolf character? Not just his gift/curse, but what are his dispositions? Does he come from a family of alcoholics or criminals? Does he live in the ghetto? Have the majority of his family members graduated from Yale University? The genetic dispositions and tendencies should flow into my character. He might be completely different from his father, but sometimes genetic dispositions/impulses/tendencies skip generations (or more). Is there a genetic talent of artistry? A gift for song? What makes him unique, what sets him apart?

-While my character grows out of his world and his bloodline, the conflict needs to grow out of my character. Why does he create the conflict? What is so important that conflict results from his actions?

What I wrote above is not original. It came from David Farland’s “Daily Kick in the Pants. I will combine that with Aristotle’s wisdom on plot (which comes from the 6 Elements of Drama by Aristotle). The amazing thing about Farland’s advice is that he simplifies it so even a caveman (like me) can understand it: 1) Your character should GROW OUT OF HIS WORLD; 2) the conflict should GROW OUT OF YOUR CHARACTER.

Got it?

If you’re like me, it might take a few minutes to restructure an old story you’ve written, to see how it might have been written better. Pick up an old story you’ve sold to an anthology, and think about your world for a moment. Did your character evolve from his world? No? Hmm. You might have been able to write your story better HAD you only signed up for Farland’s free newsletter for writers.

From Aristotle:

A) Inciting incident (tornado in Wizard of Oz)

B) Rising complications (Dorthy lands on witch, killing her. Another witch wants Dorthy dead now. 3 different friends, 3 different subplots.)

C) Climax: highest point of tension in a production (witch’s castle, Dorthy throws water on her and she melts).

D) Resolution: questions are answered, problems are solved (to some degree).


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