In the last blog, Non-Fiction: Everybody Has a Story, Part 2, I wrote about “dumping the details”. Making sure that you unload all the details into your first draft whether they are comfortable or not. After you do this, how do you best determine which details are relevant to the story that you’re telling? Well, for that, let’s bring back the somewhat star character of my previous blog, Albert the ex-boyfriend. (Apologies to all the Alberts out there, I’m sure some of you are really nice people. Not even entirely sure I know any Alberts personally.)
You’ve laid out the details from your relationship with Albert now it’s time to decide whether or not it is relevant to the reader and, most importantly, your story.
For our first author, Albert is a summer fling before their junior year of high school. They had so many fun memories of the places they went with Albert but unfortunately the relationship dissolved when they returned to school for no particular reason.
To which I would say, “Dear First Author, Albert may had provided you with some fun memories but it is irrelevant to your story and the reader really won’t find Albert’s appearance quite as significant as you do. You can leave him in or exclude him but the reader really won’t care either way. If they do care, it will most likely be because you wasted a few moments providing useless information to their mind.”
Now, for our second author, who also happens to have Albert as an ex-boyfriend (sorry Albert, my readers have now mistakenly identified you as a player). This author had an awful experience with Albert. Such an awful experience that they would rather just forget Albert ever crossed their path. For this reason, our second author decides it is best not to even mention Albert. Unfortunately, this author is speaking about their struggle in their first marriage because of the destruction Albert created.
To this I would say, “Dear Second Author, while Albert may have been someone you want to erase entirely from your memory, he is unfortunately relevant to the story you are trying to tell. Since you know Albert has now turned his life around and is happily married with two children. I can understand why you don’t want to cause any problems for him. Let’s label him as ‘one of your ex-boyfriends’.”
There are some stories which will contain sensitive situations where the details required for storytelling could cause the authors to put themselves in sticky situations if actual identities are revealed. First of all, it is important to ensure all your details are factual. Secondly, Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer. If the details of your story are that delicate you may want to consult one.
Challenge for You: Ask yourself, “Why is this relevant to the reader?"
Here are some of the options:
As mentioned earlier to Author #2, use a vague description rather than a name “ex-boyfriend, ex-wife, cousin, aunt, etc.” There is always a chance those closest to you may be able to identify who your unnamed character is. If you really don’t want that to happen then you should probably consider the next option:
If switching identities on your character, doing so after finishing your manuscript is the best option. That way if you randomly throw something in about Albert towards the end you won’t accidentally miss switching out his identity.
I would recommend creating a cheat sheet of name changes. Albert=Xander, Alice=Jane, etc. That way you can do a quick CRTL+F on your manuscript and swap out all the identities once you’ve finished writing.
Tip of the Day: Protect the story. Stay true to the story.
#NaNoWriMo #writerscommunity #authorlife #storytelling
Nicole Donoho, owner of Teddyfly LLC, enjoys writing stories for all ages. She currently lives in Northwest Arkansas where she takes in the beauty of the Natural State with her husband, Jacob, and their three sons-Elijah, Josiah, and Solomon.
At Teddyfly LLC, we are seeking the change that we want to see within ourselves and those around us.