Keeping a story’s timeline accurate is important for many reasons to include controlling flashbacks.

I have read flashbacks that were to be one year ago, but were several years based on events. Or a twenty-year-old who five years ago was eighteen. The seasons seem to confuse writers. Going back one season from spring is winter, not summer. Also, flashing back to fall can be confusing when the present is also fall. What fall is what?

I think the biggest issue is too many flashbacks. The reader can get lost between the present and the past and lose the story in the confusion. Flashbacks should be like seasoning. Too much and there is no taste. I try to limit my flashbacks like I limit my adjectives and adverbs.

Flashbacks are good when they present a backstory that reveals a climax in current time.

I think flashbacks should provide the reason “why” actions are done and give more depth to the characters. They are not to provide another story that has no conclusion and belongs in a separate work. Also, flashbacks should be limited to only the basic information. The writer does not need to include everything.

Some writers try to avoid flashbacks by using prologues. But do readers read them? Another way writers avoid flashbacks is to start at the beginning. But that could be too far in the past and include too much telling to bring the story to the present.

I recently listened to a podcast where the speaker did not like flashbacks. I think stories can include flashbacks, just treat them like any modifier. They enhance the story and can be useful when not overused.

So, use flashbacks, but sparingly. Think of looking behind yourself while walking. The glance back can’t be too long or you’ll walk into something.

Balancing Act

A nonprofit should balance their funding sources between donations and grants. They need to use equal effort in achieving funds from both.

I have worked with many nonprofits and almost all of them rely on either donations or grants for the majority of their funding. Yes, they get involved in the other funding source, but most of their focus is on the one. This can be dangerous if funding stops for that one. There is no fallback position.

Nonprofit managers focus on donations or grants mostly because it is easier for them and they have been doing it for years. The managers have a system worked out, contacts made, relationships built, and a history to use from.

Also, the other way looks difficult and needs to be learned.

Mostly, I see personalities driving the decision of which source to use. Those who are more social and extroverted will look at donations because it means speaking engagements, picture taking, and attending events. Those less interested in asking people for money will rely on grants.

Both types of people could be successful for years using one source of funding, until something stops the one funding source.

Changes in the economy or society can stop donations and not affect grants or vice versa. To prevent a loss of funds, nonprofits should make the effort to learn and use the other. Having a diverse line of funding is always good. They also provide more opportunities for funding.

The nonprofit I’m working with relies more on grants than donations. I’m working on changing them. But it is difficult because they have rarely held fundraising events or asked the public for funding. They ask, why change when grants are being approved? Because one day the grants may stop coming.

(I’m their grant person.)

Naming or not a Fictional Character

There are two kinds of characters in a story. One who has a name and one who does not.*

Characters who have an impact to the plot and appear in more than one scene should be named. They are a significant part of events and move the story along. Characters who perform a function, without significantly changing how the story unfolds, should not be named.

Unnamed characters are important and could be people in a crowd, a store clerk, a bus driver, or someone sitting on a park bench. They are identified by their function and add depth and description to the story. They may or may not interact with the named characters.

Looking at it another way: characters with names are like a team. They influence each other and carry the story along. Characters without names support the team like a cheering section.

Some authors think it is cruel to leave characters nameless, so they name everyone. There are other authors who create characters just to name them. Then, there are authors who have multiple names for the same character. With so many names, I get confused trying to find out who is important and who is not. I want to enjoy the story and not have to work at remembering names.

Also, I find that too many names drag the author into using unneeded words to create unneeded characters in unneeded scenes. The story becomes more about naming characters and not about telling the story.

How many named characters should there be? There is no specific number. But keeping the number of names low helps the author focus on the story and the reader not to be confused.

* There are other types, but this fits my blog’s theme.

Asking Again for Money

I’m applying for a grant that the nonprofit received last year.* I wrote last year’s grant, too. The easy thing would be to copy and paste last year’s information into this year’s application since little has changed in the foundation’s guidelines. Also, last year’s application worked, so why change it? This is the wrong thing to do.

A year has passed and progress has been made. (If no progress, then there are other issues to be fixed before asking for more money.) Also, the foundation members are likely to be the same people from last year reading the current application. If they read the same words, they could assume no progress had been made.

Each grant application should be treated as new and not a presentation of the same information. Not only has progress been made with the project, the world has changed economically and socially.

The one item to add in the current application is how the relationship between the nonprofit and foundation has developed positively since the previous funding was provided. Hint: The nonprofit should have taken the opportunity and developed a dialogue and relationship with the foundation.

There are some things that can be repeated in the application, such as the project title. Changing the title to make it seem new is never good. Some nonprofits do this since foundations may not fund the same project again. Be honest.

Also repeat the nonprofit’s mission statement. This provides a sense of consistency and sameness, along with assurance that the nonprofit is stable.

For this grant application, I’m using last year’s only as a guide. Having made progress on the project helps.

*Note: A report on spending all of the previous funding must have already been sent to the foundation.