Wednesday, June 17th
Today we did my favorite exercise to date. I’ve added it to my tool arsenal for future works. It’s a character quick fact sheet, consisting of the victim, villain, primary suspect, and hero. You can use this tool for more than mysteries.
We talked about clichés, and the differences in who-dun-it versus how-dun-it. I’d never realized there was a how-dun-it; it’s one of those things you don’t consider until someone points out the obvious to you. I think that’s what CSI (both the show and the books) falls under.
I’ve learned a lot about what’s good and not good for an author to do watching the afternoon talks. I assumed somewhere in my illogical brain that talking about writing is next to writing for writers, and that this would transfer into many fascinating afternoon talks. I’d forgotten that as much as we all love writing, it doesn’t mean we’re all speakers. Another lesson learned.
I went home and looked around for the police citizen’s academy; they’ve got one for St. Louis County. Success!
Thursday, June 18th
Today’s talk in class focused on plotting. Lots of points hit home with me, and I had a ton of highlight marks scattered throughout my notebook. One of the things I wanted to take out of this class, besides a bit of inspiration to get me back in the grind, is to get me back to remembering the basics of writing. I’ve worked hard the past two years pumping my fiction skills up - part mechanic and part business – and sometimes you get lost in the whirl of it all. This has helped remind me of what’s important, and where to cut the crap.
Some of my favorite points that stuck out today:
- A synopsis is key to determining whether a plot is a plot, or an idea that will fizzle throughout.
- No matter how many books you write, we all start at the same place.
- “What if” are the two most important words in writer’s arsenal.
- When you add a sub-plot, it must be resolved well ahead of the main plot, or else the main plot loses its drama.
- In endings, your protagonist must choose between two alternative courses of action that force them to make a decision.
- Hope/fear = suspense
One thing that we talked about today reminded me of something funny shared with me by other fantasy writers. We talked about the importance of pacing and how characters need a chance to breathe as well as the readers.
In fantasy writing, there’s a tendency to stretch the impossible, and I don’t mean by magical means. There’s a Fantasy Novelist’s Exam you can use to check and make sure you’re not guilty of stupid tropes within the fantasy genre. My favorite, #56, is: “Does anybody in your novel fight for two hours straight in full plate armor, then ride a horse for four hours, then delicately make love to a willing barmaid all in the same day?”