Build your tree

Start from the roots

We realize how easy it is to start writing a story, having the right tools. But what is the content of your story? It comes from your everyday life, inspired by something you witnessed once, or some social problem? You need to ask yourself where the inspiration comes from to realize which tone is better to use. 

Your roots

Roots, image by Daniele Frau.
Roots, image by Daniele Frau.

These are your roots, the base from which you will build your story and the way you find inspiration afterward. Let’s talk about the inspiration for a moment. We’ve grown with the idea that we need a specific sparkle to write, a magic moment. Without that, we imagine the writers sitting in their rooms, desperate, in front of their typewriters. It’s not exactly like that.

Yes, you can have some blank moments, periods where you have nothing to say. Well, that’s the best moment for you; take this as a vacation, write ideas, and make your life full of experience, so then you’ll start writing again. Inspiration is a myth, solid and difficult to erase from people’s imagination, but still a myth. When I don’t have anything to say on a certain topic, I switch to another one. I start writing about mathematics, science, and economics. I write about topics far from my usual niche, and an idea naturally pops out.

For instance, a few days ago, I wrote an essay about international investments and wham! Something strikes my mind, an original idea about a real estate man that lives in the streets. The main secret here is the first rule every writer always has to keep in mind: 

Write, write, write.

If you don’t write, you won’t be able to clearly understand your limits, your common errors and as we said, you’ll feel increasingly tired of writing. See it like you were going to the gym. The more you go to do sport, the more you want to, because you feel your body is responding immediately. It’s precisely the same when you start writing, then you want to write more and more. 

Solid roots

So, you have an idea of a real estate agent living in the streets. Now you need to understand which tone you will use to describe the situation. It will be something like Jean Claude Izzo in Les soleil des mourants, or you would try a political angle? Do you want to write in a sarcastic-dark humor tone, as Jonas Jonasson? After you realize that everything will be easy, your pen will scribble so fast on the paper, faster than your thoughts.

Then, it’s time to write your characters. But this is a story for another time.

See you, people! As always, send me messages or comments here below and I’ll be glad to answer all of your questions.

Do you want to read some of my stories? Check them out!

Daniele Frau

Let’s play with words

There’s nothing like playing with words

In my previous article, I spoke about the most challenging part of writing a story. In the beginning, the beginning. So, how to go over this first scary step?

Snowflake

Yes, the snowflake method was one of the most helpful methods I’ve ever tried as a beginner. You have a story in mind and that story is nothing more than some vivid sensations and a bunch of perfect phrases you noted. But that’s not enough, clearly.

What happens next?

Most of the time, what happens next is you staring at a blank page. It seems you have everything in hand to start, but the key doesn’t turn and the engine is stuck. You check the gasoline (ideas) and discover the tank is full. So, what’s the problem? Let’s open the hood of the car, shall we? Hm, that’s the problem, you’re missing all the cables that connect the engine to the car. That’s why it wasn’t doing anything when you turned the key.

Let’s find the cables

The cables are easy to find. We just need to put them in the right place. Let’s leave the car similitude for a moment. For example, the best place to start is to write down in 15 words what is your story about. Suddenly, you realise you didn’t think it through. Your story is somewhere in your head, but it isn’t clear. Not having a straightforward plot in mind from the beginning is why you cannot move from your parking spot (oh, I’m back to the car simile).

Play with words

Play with words, write your story.
Play with words

We all know how difficult it is to write an entire story in 15 words. Too many things are missing! Plus, you have to write it in a way that sounds interesting to a reader and seems even more complex. I can tell you two of my favourite exercises to improve your 15-words writing:

  • read as many movie descriptions as you can and try to describe movies that you know by heart 
  • try to write epitaphs about people you knew or famous people

For example, this is how Forrest Gump is described in Britannica.com:

“Forrest Gump, American film, released in 1994, that chronicled 30 years (from the 1950s through the early 1980s) of the life of a intellectually disabled man (played by Tom Hanks) in an unlikely fable that earned critical praise, large audiences, and six Academy Awards, including best picture.”

How you can make it in 15 words?

The chronicle of 30 years of the life of an intellectually disabled man (1950s- 1980s).

Yes, there are a lot of things missing. This is precisely my point. Now you need to add. Divide this 15-words-description into 4 parts (beginning, development, middle, finale).

  1. Forrest is an intellectually disabled child who discovers he can do some extraordinary things.
  2. Forrest goes to war, understands he loves one girl and loses his best friend, Bubba.
  3. The girl he loves continues to escape from him. Forrest is lucky and gets a millionaire.
  4. The girl he loves returns, they have a child together and then she dies.

I know what you’re thinking: “where is the bench, that famous beautiful bench?” 

Nowhere, now, but the exercise isn’t finished here. We need to make each part of the story divided into 4 phrases, 15 phrases long. In this way, we can start speaking about him sitting on a bench and speaking to a stranger, his disabilities and his single mum believing in him, and his crush on Jenny. Step by step, your story starts to be interesting. 

What’s next?

Start doing some exercises, put some ideas together and write your famous first 15 words. Your story will start growing on an excellent base.

Read some of my stories here and tell me what you think about them.

To be continued!

What is the most challenging part of a story to write?

What is the most challenging part of a story to write?

The beginning in the beginning

When you first start writing, the easiest part is the beginning, or at least it’s what you think. Words flow so quickly that you feel you have a gift, and maybe you actually have. The issue is, when you let someone (not your mom and dad) read it, most of the time, they do THAT face.

Which face?

You know what face I’m speaking about, the lost look. Why is that? You start wondering if the story has a sense at all, and then you start questioning everything, even the editor trying to help you. The only solution is to take a step back and re-read everything, following the advice of the experts.

Beginners

So, I answered the first question, I think. The most challenging part of a story to write is the beginning when you are a beginner. The first line is so difficult to write that it takes 25% of my time, even nowadays. That line presents your book to the reader, and nothing will change that. The reader will understand your style and what the story is about just by reading that first line.

Now, I went to a book presentation a few days ago. Friendly atmosphere, cool people. Then, I bought a book copy and sat waiting for the discussion to start. I arrived there without preconceptions, open to discovering a lovely book and a new author.

Then, I opened the first page

The book was well-edited; no problem with that. I focused on the first line. Horrible, simply horrible. I closed my eyes, breathed and I tried again. Nope, still horrific. A nightmare for anyone who had ever written something, that first line told me, “run from this place”. Still, I tried my best not to run. I thought, “maybe I’m wrong; let’s give her another chance”. 

And I did

The most useless hour I ever spent, believe me. The writer and the other two presenters started speaking about how skilled the author is. Also, they couldn’t avoid talking about how magic was the love story (apparently, if there’s no love story, there’s no book, they said) and other incredibly dull things.

What did I discover?

I discovered that you need to read many good books, but even more bad first lines, too. First, a bad first line wants to tell you something clever but doesn’t show you anything. Something like “George was walking in a garden full of roses, the smell of the paradise and the colour of passion”. After a while, you will understand how important the first line is. Phew.

If you’re still asking yourself what is the most challenging part of a story to write, here’s the answer, then. This doesn’t mean it’s always the most difficult part. In the example of the bad start, the author forgot to mention something important, questions. Questions are something you cannot forget when you’re writing anything. Questions bring answers, and answers get other questions. 

Show, don’t tell

Show, don't tell, graphic by Daniele Frau.
Show, don’t tell.

In an excellent short video by Film Courage, Glenn Gers gives the six questions that you never have to forget when writing fiction.

  1. What this story is about?
  2. What is that they want?
  3. Why they cannot get it?
  4. What do they do about that?
  5. Why it doesn’t work?
  6. How does it end?

These macro questions lead to many others in something similar to fractals or the famous snowflake method

What is this story about? A man in his forties that never left his room. 

Why did he never leave his room? Where does he live? Does he live alone? How is it possible that he never left his room? How big is his room?

And so on, you got my point.

Let’s continue to speak about it in the following article!

In the meantime, have a look at my stories on Flyingstories.org.

Read, write, explore!

Daniele Frau

The Ozarks

The importance of writing well

A few people don’t know The Ozark. I started watching this successful series and asked myself what the secret behind that was.

Why was I so drawn into it, and why were the characters in Ozark so engaging?

Then, I watched the interviews with the cast, and there wasn’t a single one that didn’t mention the quality of the screenwriting.

I quote one of the actors:

“Thanks to Bill, I was able to explore my character. I knew perfectly well what I had to do, how I had to interpret my character.”

So, how important is the writing?

Fundamental

Writing is essential for the actors to be more confident in acting their roles and it is critical for the audience to be completely engaged in the fiction world prepared for them.

How many times have we spoken about the importance of reading?

The importance of reading.
The importance of reading.

So many times, I lost the count.

It’s not just about reading, but it’s mainly about understanding more about the world surrounding us and shaping it through reading. Writing has to come naturally, as a form of expressing what it would need too much time to tell by simple words.

 Every time I start writing, I don’t enter another dimension, but I remain silent and hear my thoughts flowing. Someone uses some techniques to relax, but I try to focus on techniques only when creating good characters

I study every day how to improve my writing, make it more or less dense, raise the hairbows of the audience in curiosity, and create something really, genuinely original.

Go back to the future, story by Daniele Frau.

But then, as every writer would say, you need to read, you need to experience, and you need to write. If you read and experience, but you don’t write, your hands get rusty after a while, and you start overthinking.

Remember when I told you I don’t go to another dimension while writing? 

I lied.

Yes, of course, I go to another dimension, I hear my thoughts and I have to work on them to express my ideas. However, I have to come back to my steps and make that inner voice sound more natural, engaging and understandable.

So, thanks to The Ozarks, for reminding one again how important is good writing. To remind me that what I do every day has a significant impact.

Why writing a kids’ book?

I sat in my room, surrounded by white walls and all of a sudden, I found myself in a forest, in a castle, or anywhere else, really. It was long ago, and I was a kidlong before I was mature enough to start questioning myself. There wasn’t much space for anything else than fantasy in my mind.

White walls

When we reconnect with that quietness and those white walls, we allow the fantasy to come back to life. Our strange characters crawl around, and the wind starts whistling again in the forest of our imagination.


Kids stories aren’t just stories

Why writing a kids book?

Kids’ stories are canvas, blank canvas kids use to picture their ideas. When I choose the ingredients for my stories, I use my white walls technique. As an adult, I think about what I want to say, the final meaning. Then I close my eyes, and in a moment, the child inside me takes over, redesigning that adult idea into something that can be fun, too. Yes, kid’s characters must be fun. That’s a plus.

Stories

It’s time for the story to start its own life under the force of my fingertips. After a few days, I always return to the text I wrote the first time to add something, change it entirely and then reread it. When I’m writing for children, I have to do a further step. I have to think: 

“I’m leaving enough space for the child to create his/her own story?”

When writing a story for kids, we must answer this question.
It’s not about us and the plot anymore; it’s about something more profound. We’re dealing with personalities, beliefs and strong emotions. We often forget, but children aren’t mere reflections of ourselves. In fact, they are way more complicated than we think.

Nodo, the chairs’ mover


When I first wrote Nodo the chairs’ mover, I had to keep it in mind. Nodo doesn’t have to be a hero or an anti-hero. It doesn’t need to teach anything at all. He’s the impersonification of fear, and children have to laugh about it. They must laugh at the twigs’ snapper in the forest and the keys’ hider when they see their parents getting crazy, searching frantically for their precious keys.


It’s when I heard a child laughing at my story, that I understood I was going on the right path. I created the right set of blank canvas for him.

On society and customs

Society isn’t an abstract concept. On the contrary, society is way more concrete than we think. Every choice we make, even the one we believe to be totally irrelevant for the rest of the world, has an impact. The way we speak to our friends, our family, to ourselves.

Change the rules


Society dictates the rules we follow and we can bend those rules, but we cannot change them radically, not in the fraction of time which is our life. That doesn’t mean our choices are useless, irrelevant, or destined to fail.

However, we don’t have to get frustrated if we see society struggling to follow what we think it’s correct, understanding what is right. From a fractal perspective, society can probably be described as a bigger, more complex version of ourselves. In the middle, there are smaller societies, as our churches, our clubs (any clubs, not just the one with kayaks or golf sticks), even our families. Our believes, our standards, comes in and we can take them or reject them.

Beard or skirt?

The main difference between us and society is then the time we take to reach innovation.


I recently wrote a story about a new law in Italy that intends to get a harder punishment for those who discriminate against others with homophobic intentions. I didn’t want to give a lesson but create a story offering a different perspective on the matter.


Imagine if women had a beard and men dressed as women, with their legs properly shaved. Imagine now the politicians defending men dressing in a skirt, as “we always did”.

If we do something for a long time, it doesn’t automatically mean it’s the right thing to do. Keep in mind that, as absurd it would seem to you, I didn’t invent anything.

Most of the speeches you’ll read in the story, Skirt or beard, are actual speeches from real politicians.

Nodo lo sposta sedie

Letto e interpretato da… me

Nodo lo sposta sedie è un libro per bambini, da me ideato e prodotto insieme a Flyingstories, con l’intento di aiutare proprio i bambini a superare la paura dei rumori.

Quali rumori?

Quando si è soli in casa, oppure in un bosco, ci arrivano alle orecchie dei suoni che possono spaventarci, perché non ne comprendiamo l’origine.

Lo sposta sedie fa questo, da generazioni, ossia sposta le sedie per spaventare gli umani. Lo spezza rametti, che vedremo più avanti, passa il tempo a rompere i rametti nei boschi.

Per quanto siano dispettosi, questi personaggi sono però completamente innoqui. Amano gli scherzi, questo è vero, ma non farebbero del male ad una mosca.

Di cosa si tratta?

Potete leggere qui due estratti della storia, in italiano, inglese e spagnolo. L’altro intento con il quale è stato ideato questo libro è la possibilità per i bambini di avere un libro in diverse lingue. Perfetto per bambini nati in famiglie multilingue, può essere utile anche per chi volesse, come genitore, intraprendere la via dell’home schooling con i propri bambini. Che dire di più? Buona lettura e… buon ascolto!

Spring is here?

Let me know when it’s winter time!

Well, it’s challenging to sense spring when you’re living in the desert. Seasons seem just the same, apart from summer, of course. Yes, in the desert, summer is nothing less than a furnace.

Spring is here? Image created by Daniele Frau with Canva.
Spring is here? By Daniele Frau

You live in constant isolation with your A/C always on, leaving only to go to some malls. In the cars, in the mall, of course, the temperature is freezing. In the beginning, when I first started my adventure here, I was afraid of that. I thought I might take something serious, some bad pneumonia.

Nah, what happened was the definitive human being answer to almost everything: I simply coped with that.


In March, I can count exactly 5 years of life in the desert, but as you can imagine, nothing was really bothering me before 2020. See, living in Dubai, closed inside your apartment, isn’t the best experience.

And Dubai it’s expensive, mind that. Whenever you call for food, you must think twice. Yes, some people say it’s ok. You just need to understand where to eat. I don’t agree, at least not entirely. See, to spend less in Dubai means to have low-quality food.

Yes, it’s cheap, but to what cost?

Anyways, that’s spring in Dubai, 32 degrees Celsius and a gloomy sky most of the time. But do you know what it will be helpful, then? Winter! Yes, winter here it’s like spring in the rest of the world I’ve visited. Everyone likes to leave, to go around, cycling, swimming and such. Yes, I must save my graphics for few months and let the chick say: “Is it winter?”

Nodo, the Chairs’ mover

A new Project

Writing a story it’s always intimidating. You start asking yourself:

With all the material around on the Internet nowadays, how can I make a difference? What is in my story that makes it so original?


Then, all of a sudden, a character knock at your door. In this case, it was a small man with a big nose. He introduced himself. He was a chairs’ mover.

Yes, he said precisely that name!


We sit down, and while I started writing on my computer, he moved the first chair.


Sorry


He said.


But you could see from his face that he wasn’t sorry at all. He enjoyed moving the chair and startled me. But what do you expect when letting in a chairs’ mover?

Where a character comes from?

Nodo, the chairs' mover
Nodo, the chairs’ mover


This character, as many others, comes from everyday life. Who has never heard a chair moving in their apartment when they’re alone? Yes, there is an explanation, and it’s our small friend.


In general, what I like about writing for children is that they thoroughly enjoy the story. They get engaged and laugh, and cry sometimes. That’s why, in the end, I decided to write this story. To have a chance to make a child smile.


Enjoy more about the story of Nodo the chairs’ mover on my blog Flyingstories.org.

If you want to read the book, request your copy at this link!

Cover of the book Nodo the chairs' mover_by Daniele Frau_Illustrations by DMQproductions.
Cover of the book Nodo the chairs’ mover_by Daniele Frau.


And keep always open the door to a new character!

How good people turn evil?

Monsters, aliens

The Lucifer effect

Go back to the future_Flyingstories


This situation reminds me of the insightful (and very popular) experiment made at Standford University in 1971 and the book that followed, written by Phillip Zimbardo, The Lucifer Effect.


How nice people turn out not to be so nice anymore?


There are many reasons, many factors that sum up to create a so-called monsters. What we know is that no one is born evil. The same idea we have of evilness changed with time. The outstanding progress of medicine and the knowledge of our brain give us new keys to understand the phenomenon.

A trigger


We know for sure something that “triggers” us and made us prone to be evil. To put it in plain words, to be de-identified is a big motivator. Even the nicest person on Earth, set in a situation of having immense power and no control, can turn into a monster. Oh, it doesn’t mean everyone will react in the same way, but most people will (or let other people turn evil without doing anything to prevent it).

Go back to the future


Coming back to our story, Go back to the future: changing the name of the “newcomers” into aliens the society can turn the eyes away from the problem. The Chief of the State, a pure idiot with no skills whatsoever, become a real monster. The middle-class start shooting at the “coming aliens” just for fun.


Who’s helping the aliens?


Well, whoever they might be, they can go to hell. Or to prison, to be more precise. No, this isn’t pure fantasy. The right-wing hasn’t always been like this in Italy. But the new right-wing likes to speak to the bellies of the population. Don’t you believe me? Imagine if somebody would arrest me for saving people in the open sea. As estimates from the UN attested, 25 people die every day in front of Sicilian coasts. So, this blood is in our hands.


And what are we doing to prevent it?


Nothing, really. Like real monsters do. And this isn’t just my story.

This is reality.

Daniele Frau, storyteller_translator

%d bloggers like this: