2010 © by Robert J Ray and Jack Remick
How to Read like a Writer: Part One
- Name and Tag the three main characters in your novel: X–Protagonist, Y–Antagonist, and Z–Helper.
- Using the three guides – wants, needs, and can’t have because – define the motivation for each character. What do the characters want? What do they need? What can’t they have?
- Back Story Motivation: What happened to the characters in the back story that drives their actions in the present? Where are the scars and wounds? Where does the pain come from?
- Setting: where does the novel open? Where does it end? What settings recur? By settings, we mean—places, locales, situations in time and space.
- What is the resource base? Resource base means object of desire. What will your characters die for? Kill for? (Example: Dirt in Water-World. Thornfield Hall in Jane Eyre. Gasoline in The Road Warrior.)
- Objects: What is the object identified with each character? Ahab had his harpoon. The English Patient has his book.
- What is the point of view? Is it First Person? Third Person? Multiple? POV-who smells what? Who feels what in a scene? POV is a big deal in fiction. Find it. Lock it down. Stay with it.
- Sexual Triad: What three characters form the Sexual Triad? (Example: Gatsby-Daisy-Tom; Almasy-Katherine-Geoffrey; Jane-Rochester-Bertha.)
- Rituals: In fiction, often the main rituals are barter and threshold crossing. Barter means trade or negotiation – “If you don’t give back my toy bear, I’m gonna tell….” Threshold crossing can mean Firsts and Lasts: “On my last birthday, the year I graduated college, I fell in love with my best friend’s boy-friend. His name was….”
- What is the Core Story for each major character? Core story is archetype plus ritual. (Example: Jane Eyre’s Archetype is Victorian Cinderella. The ritual that identifies her is escape from poverty. Jane’s Core Story is Rags to Riches. Rochester’s Archetype is Man of Property. The ritual that defines him is plotting to substitute Jane for his crazy wife, Bertha. Rochester’s core story is Queen Replacement.)