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Elements of Writing: Orientation

Elements of Writing: Orientation

 

Elements of Writing: Orientation

 

"Whatever the central idea, it should immediately raise an important question that needs to be answered. Well-crafted plays and novels raise important questions that the reader or audience wants answered. A question that will arouse curiosity, cause people to think, take sides, root for or against the characters involved in the action. The central idea is what keeps the reader reading and the audience in its seat. And most importantly, the writer should stay on track until the script is completed."

- Ken Eulo (Labyrinth of Design: A Causative Formula for Writers)

 

The central idea of a novel or play is its orientation; the initial 'spark' that instantly captured the writer's imagination, the 'germ' infecting slowly within. Without a central idea, a writer will not be able to stay on course and will eventually go astray. Most won't be able to finish their manuscript, or they'll wander or run amok.

 

It's the idea that gets them in the chair to write their story. Writers are encouraged to carry a notebook with them at all times. The greatest use of a notebook is when a spark occurs. Many ideas have been lost to time because they were not written down. The idea can be revisited in the evolution process that occurs in the meditation stage of a story idea. Like a chrysalis, the story idea will potentially morph to become the writer's next story to tell.

 

Story ideas sometimes come slowly or at times they hit the writer like an explosion. Many times, I've found myself in the heat of an idea, become passionate to the point that I'm compelled to sit down and just write like hell. However, as I've become more experienced in my writing, I've become more thoughtful in the writing process. Heated inspiration often blocks out cool logic. A writer must put knowledge before passion. This means that a writer must slow down and take a "good hard look" at what is compelling the writer to write that particular story in the first place.

 

The first and most important element in the construction of a story is orientation, however, it is the least understood. Most writers believe orientation is theme, but this is secondary. Orientation is the starting point, it's the constant guide that will keep the writer on track. How many manuscripts are sitting in drawers, unfinished because the writer lost their way and got confused to what they were writing about in the first place?

 

Orientation can be derived from a phrase, an aphorism, a title, problem, or perhaps a combination of different ideas that come together to form another new idea. Orientation must raise an important question or reveal an inherent problem. It's a question or problem that is provocative and will compel the audience/reader to stick around for the answer or solution.

 

Once the writer understands what the orientation of his/her story is, orientation will provide the writer clarity to what he/she is writing. It's something that a writer will explore from the beginning to the end of their manuscript. The audience will be with the writer as they explore and discover together.

 

Aphorism & Orientation

 

Aphorisms can be good orientations. Aphorism, according to yourdictionary.com, is a statement of truth or opinion expressed in a concise and witty manner. The term is often applied to philosophical, moral, and literary principles. To qualify for an aphorism, it is necessary for a statement to contain truth revealed in a terse manner.

 

Two examples of aphorisms that can be used are "if it ain't broke don't fix it" or "An apple a day keeps the doctor away." If a writer used the apple aphorism as the orientation for their story, the author will be compelled in their writing to prove or disprove that an apple a day really does or does not keep the doctor away. There are so many different directions the writer can take from this statement that I ask you to use your imagination on how you would explore this statement.

 

Often times I've heard or have been told, "That's good writing." I understand that the reader is not merely saying that my words or sentences were well structured, rather the way I tackled the orientation of the story was interesting and enlightening to the reader.

 

Below I've listed my orientations for the books and play I've written to date:

 

Hank's Six Days of Happiness (A two-act play)

Orientation: If you lived 50 years and had an unhappy miserable life, and you had the opportunity to erase your memory and begin anew, would you?

 

The Neighborhood (A horror novel)

Orientation: Can a man ever outrun his sins of youth in hell.

 

It's a Good Day to Liquidate (A thriller, novel)

Orientation: Can a man who has failed at everything in life find success in failing?

 

Lizard of Transition (A war story)

Orientation: God commanded us, "Thou shalt not kill/murder." Can a soldier who returns from war after he has murdered find redemption after living a good and seemingly fulfilled life?

 

The Great Mongolian of the United States of America (A comedy)

Orientation: "Can one live a simple life in a small town, work a small job, live without a family, and find meaning and fulfillment in living?"

 

If you'd like to learn even more about Orientation, I've discussed the orientations for several of my works in more detail:

What are examples of Orientation in your own work? Comment below, I'd love to read about it. If you'd like, continue reading about the other elements of constructing a story.

 

- Ed Borowsky, Author.

 

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Elements of Writing: Orientation (Part I: The Amazing Life of Art Lemon)

Elements of Writing: Orientation (Part I: The Amazing Life of Art Lemon) - Ed Borowsky

 

This germ infected me about eighteen years ago. I met the store owner who was also the mayor of a small border town in Arizona situated somewhere on the Arizona/Mexican line.

 

The mayor of the town said to me pointing, "You see that air force base over there, that's a top-secret base. That's where they developed stealth technology."


He then said, "Know what they are working on now? Miniatures! Little bugs that have cameras as heads that can walk under doors to spy on the enemy. They have bugs that can fly into open windows, and then with a push of a button… explode."


Fast forward to November 2007, I get into the hobby of RC model airplanes as an activity I could do with my youngest son. In the back of a national RC magazine, (Model Airplane News) I see an advertisement, about a quarter of a page, in reverse print, that read verbatim,

 

"UAV Fabrication Technician"

 

"ITT has an immediate opening for an experienced aircraft fabrication technician to work on prototyping unmanned aircraft designs. Must be experienced in composite, wood and metal fabrication, and repair technologies. A&P training desirable. Experience with home-built aircraft or large-scale scratch-built radio control model aircraft preferred. Must have minimum of 5 years of experience as RC or external UAV pilot. Experience with 5-30 HP size gasoline aircraft engines. HOBBYIST EXPERIENCE ACCEPTED, please send photos and description of projects with resume. APPLICANT MUST BE WILLING TO RELOCATE TO WASHINGTON DC AREA AND BE ABLE TO OBTAIN SECURITY CLEARANCE.
Please submit your resume to…"

 

At this point in my hobby, I was hooked, almost fanatical. I used to fly every day, and I became a proficient builder. I thought I wanted to write a book about the hobby and had never forgotten the mayor I met in Arizona that day, 'top Secret air force base… miniatures… flying bugs played over and over again in my head.


And then, this ad that read, "Hobbyist experience accepted, applicant must be willing to relocate to Washington DC area and be able to obtain a security clearance."

 

This blew my mind, the government was recruiting hobbyists to Washington, DC to build predator drones. The idea of a rag-tag team of everyday Joes going to Washington, DC after being recruited by the CIA wasn't far-fetched. Before you knew it, they were stationed at Langley Air Force Base in Hampton, Virginia soon on a mission to Afghanistan to save the world.

 

Fast forward eleven years, that's when I sat down to finally write the book. The first line I wrote, "Art Lemon had a very bright name, but his life wasn't so bright."

 

"The Amazing Life of Art Lemon" was born, a 69,000-word literary novel that turns into a thriller in the end. The manuscript is fully edited and ready to be discovered.

 

Orientation: The Amazing Life of Art Lemon

 

Can a person who was rejected by his natural-born parents and ostracized by the community he grew up in find a happy and fulfilled life? Yes, through the loving care of family, armed only with intellect and faith.

 

There are many more germs that have infected my being, one's that I've been meditating on for varying times. At some point, I'll finish my latest book and I'll move on to the germ that has infected my imagination the most.

 

Germs are all around us and they infect the writer. We can't help it. The only remedy for us it to write. Once the story is completed, the germ is finally out of the writer's system. But there is no cure—there are always more germs that infect us.

 

Interested in learning more about Orientation, and other Elements of Story?

 

Stay tuned for more. In the meantime, have any germs bitten you? Comment below if they have—I'd love to hear about it.

 

- Ed Borowsky, Author

 

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