Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Natural

I learned how to write from my six-year-old self today. While rifling through paperwork, I found my first story, presented here in all its typographical glory.

Feed the pup.
Dabby go Feed the pup.
No Son. I am to Bisy.
Mom Will you Go Feed the gup.
No Soh. Iam to Bisy.
Sis. Wlli you GoFeed The gut
No I’m TO Bissy
Butoh Will You Go Geed gup
No Son I’m Bisy.
Why Dot’ You!

I have attempted to recreate the Crayola palate (sky blue, blue-violet, burnt orange, forest green, salmon). What you can’t see are the wobbly letters/psychosis/dyslexia or the lined paper whose parameters I ignored. I don’t know why I made myself a boy. I believe I wanted to make sure my work would be seen as fiction. (Yes, dog feeding was a great topic of family debate).

At age six I already knew everything taught at my top MFA creative writing program:

1) Start with a person and a problem (protagonist has a hungry pup)
2) Have a second character against whom the main character will enact his change (pup)
3) The internal conflict mirrors the external conflict (pup is hungry/protagonist must move from ambivalence to action or pup will starve.)
4) The protagonist has agency (narrator goes in search of pup feeder)
5) Rule of Threes. (Actually I broke this rule by having the character ask a fourth time, but great fiction can do that.)
6) At the end the character should have changed forever. (protagonist forced to consider that instead of getting other people to do his work he should take responsibility).

What the protagonist doesn’t do: Bog down in description, tell a story to get to the story, watch others act instead doing things, or the myriad other problems I face in revision today.

Go find your earliest work. Marvel at your natural sense of story.


ann said...

i have major issues with 'stakes' and i found a story from 6th grade where the first line was something like: 'that old house has treasure hidden in it, and it's going to be torn down in 24 hours!' whereupon they go try to find the treasure. with a great sense of urgency.

Margosita said...

What a great post!

One of my earliest works was a story about a bird and a cat that became friends, despite being supposed enemies. I'm not sure what that says about my writing, I'd have to go and dig it up for details...

Travis Fortney said...

You know who's a natural? Lebron James!!!

And also Joyce Carol Oates. There's really no other explanation for either of them.