(Check out Part One here)
Tuesday started with a lengthier discussion on editing and storytelling, before diving into another critique. The comments Dave made here mirrored the ones he gave me –more setting, more characterization. The need for a more developed setting ended up being a common theme throughout pretty much all the critiques.
That afternoon we critiqued an extremely well written YA urban fantasy with a fun main character and a type of magic I hadn’t seen before. I thought the writing was smooth and the story solid. One way the group suggested to help strengthen the main character’s conflict was to kill his mother – or, more precisely, to make it so his mother’s dead. That added an extra layer to the character’s tension with his father, which is what the first chapter centered on.
In the evening I sent Dave the scene I’d written the previous night where I’d try to apply some of his comments, and got back a thumbs up from him. I also worked on a dilemma scene (our assignment for the night), realizing that I had a couple good dilemma’s early on and hadn’t really fleshed either of them out.
In the morning we read our Dilemma scenes, before moving into a discussion on storytelling. This was probably the most enlightening session of the entire workshop. It exposed another mental ‘mistake’ I was making, in imagining that the storytelling aspect of things was artistic magic. Apparently I just don’t learn – storytelling can be analyzed, broken down, and studied, just liked anything else. The main difference with storytelling and other things is so few people, even published authors, have tried to do so. Fortunately for us, Dave is an expert at doing exactly that. I’ll cover more about this topic in a future blog post.
Today’s critiques included an intricately plotted historical thriller / time-travel story and a very unique sci-fi novel. After class sessions I ended up chatting with people all afternoon till dinner. After dinner we came back to watch the Hunger Games as a group, with Dave offering analysis of the film both during and after.
One of the topics that we had discussed in the morning was the idea of resonance in stories. Things can resonate with you personally, or with other things in the genre. For example, in the Hunger Games, the capital city’s soldiers are dressed to remind the viewer of storm troopers; Katniss, with her bow and warrior-woman like persona reminds us of the Greek goddess Artemis; President Snow, with a snow white beard, conspiring with the Games director Seneca, with a red suit and sharp black goatee, remind us of God and the Devil.
Dave argues that resonance is one of the keys to making your novel or film blockbusters. It’s something I’d never thought of before, and will be considering both in my current story and future projects.
Today we talked about editing passes and critiqued three novels; a fantasy about were-dragons, a science fiction piece about troops training to be admitted into an elite program; and a contemporary fantasy. There was some discussion about character names in the first two pieces, which got me thinking what makes a good character name and not. One of the issues people had was with a main character named Del, cast as a young cadet. Del is considered an ‘old fashioned’ name by a lot of people, so a number of people argued it might be appropriate to find a ‘younger’ sounding name.
I admit to not thinking enough about my names, though when I asked the group they seemed okay with mine. Makes you wonder how much of a difference in reader enjoyment a name can make.
The evening’s assignment was to write an argument scene. I found one argument with Gare and Eonhar that I thought was kind of timid, and rewrote it so there ends up being a lot of unresolved tension in the end. The rewritten scene ends up being one of the favorite I’ve ever written – it really dug into the inner pain that both characters feel, in a way I hadn’t managed to reach before. My fingers were shaking while typing it, and my voice shook while reading it in class the next day. It’s pretty cool when you can manage an emotional response like that from yourself with your own writing.
The final day ended with some more talk of editing, the final two critiques (a fantasy inspired by the Cinderella tale and a really sweet urban fantasy that is kind of a lighter version of the Dresden files), and time for questions. After that we gathered for a group photo, and that was that.
After the workshop ended a few of us gathered for dinner at a Hibachi grill. I’d never done one before, so that was a cool experience, and the food was very good.
Overall, I learned an enormous amount, not to mention made friendships and connections I hope will last a lifetime. I feel energized and ready to take my writing to the next level, and more certain than ever that one day I’ll be successful at it.