Where to get a quick insight into good fiction writing for NaNo

If any of you are looking for a bit of how-to guidance for your NaNoWriMo story – or, indeed, any fiction – one place to start researching is with Arthur Porges’ classic 1953 sci-fi ‘The Ruum‘.

It’s a simple enough tale. Alien ‘bio-collector’ robot is accidentally left on Jurassic-age Earth. Skip forward 130 million years and it’s still hard at work, undiscovered in the wild back-country – until a rugged outdoorsman runs into it.

A beautiful picture from the other week of Earth from 1.6 million km sunwards. NASA, public domain.
Earth. NASA, public domain.

What follows is a classic man-vs-wild survival tale – with a stunning twist. I won’t say anything more – but what I will say is that ‘The Ruum’ remains an absolute archetype of all that a short story of this general type should be. It has:

  1. A simple and sharply contained plot – one man, one task, one thread.
  2. Character-based drama of the highest order – the inner struggle by the woodsman to find strength in himself to stay alive.
  3. Sustained conflict – pursuit of the man by the Ruum – moving in rising waves.
  4. A surprise twist at the very end.

This is storytelling at the very highest level. It’s worth hunting out ‘The Ruum’ – it’s online, these days, and it won’t take long to read.

After that, check out Hemingway’s The Old Man And The Sea, which carries the same themes and handles them in a very similar way. In this case, the ‘relentless enemy’ isn’t an alien robot, it’s the sea itself, however the storytelling principle is identical. That particular novella won Hemingway a Nobel Prize for literature.

There are deep lessons to be learned here.

Now get writing.

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2015


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