Sunday, November 12, 2006

Creative Writing Tips

Creative Writing Tips - Have You Established Your Main Character At The Start?

by: Nick Vernon

In the beginning of your story you have to grab your readers’ interest and sustain it till the end. Our hook is our character. Readers keep on reading to find out more about the character. To see what he’ll do in the story; how he’ll solve his problems. What his goals are and whether he’ll achieve them.

And because our character is the reason readers become hooked on our stories, establishing him at the start is a must in a short story. And it is essential to establish him at the start because we don’t have the capacity in our limited word length to introduce him at our leisure.

The bond between readers and character has to be developed almost immediately.

You might have a few characters though. How do you decide who your main character will be? A main character is one that drives the story.

Think of it this way… If we were to take him away, there will be no story because it’s his story we are telling. The story will unfold by what is happening or what has happened to him.

When you establish who your main character will be, the next thing to do is to find which of your characters is in the best position to tell the story. Will your main character tell his story or will you give that role to another character?

This is what we call Viewpoint and what we’ll see in more detail in proceeding chapters.

Your main character isn’t necessarily the one who is telling the story; he might not even appear in our story ‘physically’ but will be there through the thoughts of others. So the viewpoint character might be a secondary character.

Whoever is telling the story is the viewpoint character.

The viewpoint character gives the coloring of the story. Whatever this characters says, we will believe. It may or may not be true, according to the main character, but because he isn’t there ‘physically’ to voice his opinions, we will have to take the viewpoint character’s word for it.

In a novel you can play around with viewpoint. You can have several viewpoint characters. In a short story it works best with one.

So your main character, whether he’ll be telling his own story or someone else will be doing it for him, has to be established at the start of your story.

Having said that, let’s see the reasons why the main character may not be telling his own story...

Perhaps our main character is one that readers won’t sympathize or empathize with.
Or the main character will not view highly with our readers
Or the viewpoint character knows all the facts and can tell the story better

Let me give you an example of a secondary character telling the story of a main character…

Let’s say your secondary character is a psychiatrist and the main character is the patient. Depending on what’s going to go on in the story, we’ll have to choose who’s in a better position to tell it. In this case, I will choose the psychiatrist.

I’ve done this because the patient is confused, being the one with the problems. The psychiatrist knows all the facts and his opinions will make things clearer to readers.

So, as the secondary character (the psychiatrist) unravels the story, we’ll become involved in the main character because it’s the main character’s story that is been told.

This may get a little confusing to the beginner writer. As they write they will have to keep in mind that the secondary character, although he’s telling the story, is NOT our main character.

The secondary character is there to do perform a task. He’s only the voice. It’s the main character we’ll become involved with.

A secondary character doesn’t play such an important role as a main character does. Therefore, information about secondary characters should be kept to a minimum. It’s not his story – it’s the main character’s story and the spotlight must, most times, be kept on the main character.

Take the above example for instance. It’s no relevance to the story how the psychiatrist started his career or where he received his diploma – what’s important, is what he has to say about the main character, his patient.


Introduce your main character straight away, as close to the beginning of the story that’s possible. Enable your readers to form a bond and that will keep them hooked.

Is your main character established at the start of your story?


Accounting Police: Do They Exist?

Who created accounting principles? Who sets and revises accounting standards? What if you don’t follow all the rules, do you go to jail? Is there an accounting police force that investigates and arrests violators? It would seem that there must be some regulatory force to make sure that providers of financial statements conform to the rules. There is, up to a point, and here is how it works:

Mainly, it’s all voluntary and it works pretty well. First, double-entry accounting originated in Italy in the 1400’s, so its been around awhile. Accounting principles have evolved over the years just as have accounting standards. The reason why the system works is that the business community could not function if there was not commonality and consistency in financial statement reporting. It would be chaos, much like if there were no driving rules of the road.
Therefore, in the United States, a body of experts known as the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB pronounced Fasbee) was established in 1973, which superseded another board called the Accounting Principles Board (APB). The FASB members go through a lengthy process of analyzing and reviewing problems in the accounting field that are brought to them. After much thought, they will make a pronouncement as to what they think the new or revised way of approaching the treatment of an accounting issue should be.
They are a non-governmental organization that has private financing. A big supporter of FASB is the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). Many Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) belong to this prestigious organization and are obligated to abide by its guidelines and principles of behavior. Other countries no doubt have similar organizations that require high levels of accounting professional conduct.

FASB established an accounting code called “Generally Accepted Accounting Principles” or (GAAP). The assumption is that if a business financial statement is prepared according to GAAP, then the user of that financial statement could rely on or trust the information more readily than if not prepared according to GAAP. Those businesses that deviate from GAAP, and many smaller businesses do, cannot say that their statements are prepared under GAAP; in fact, they should inform the reader that they are not. However, let the buyer beware.
One governmental body that has a policing function is the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC). It is primarily concerned with public companies because their job is to protect investors from unscrupulous acts. Recently, the SEC has gotten into the act of establishing accounting standards. It has its hands full today.

Since most businesses use their financial statements to prepare their required income tax returns, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) may audit those tax returns and review the financial statements upon which the tax returns are based. Not following the rules can get you in trouble with this governmental body.

You can see that in many ways compliance to the principles and standards is a mixture of voluntary and regulatory behavior. Currently, there is an effort underway to set international accounting standards due to the inexorable globalization process. This is a massive undertaking that will take years, but it is obviously necessary and inevitable.

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