Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Knowing your world

Toward the end of Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses, John Grady Cole answered three questions that tested the truth of his story about acquiring the bay horse.  The judge hearing his case asked him the number of hectares in the Nuestra Senora de la Purisima Concepcion hacienda and the name of the husband of the hacienda’s cook.  Finally, he asked to see the scars of John Grady's wound.  And when John Grady had given his answers and shown his scars, the judge accepted that he told the truth.  The judge had no way to determine whether the answers were factual or whether the young protagonist was wounded under the circumstances he described.  But, as he told John Grady, “the trouble with a liar is he cant remember what he said.”  And John Grady remembered even the obscure facts of his experience.  How much do you know about your characters and their world?  Whether you put these in writing in your story or not, we the readers want to believe you know them well enough to answer all our questions.  We want to believe you could show us the scars.

Here’s a chance to test your ability to build a world.  I had so much fun with my own writing prompt, I’m holding a contest to let you choose some.  List three items in the comments section within the next two weeks that you’d like to include in a short story of any genre.  I’ll pick three – adding my own, if needed – and post them on the January 26 blog, adding the rules for a short story contest using the prompts.  Winning prompt entries will be credited.  They’re your choice, but keep the sex and violence to about what you’d see in a PG-13 movie.

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