Monday, April 27, 2009

Conference Report

Home from the conference. I had such a great time too. I met some really nice writers and learned quite a bit. Today I'll share a few things from our character building workshop with Lori Wilde.

Character world view or how the character sees the world. This was really interesting and something I need to work on with my novel characters.

Start with your character's motto. It can be anything like, "better safe than sorry" or "just do it" or some such thing.

This also connects with the character's life metaphor. "Life is like a box of chocolates" or "life is what you make it" or something like "life is a roller coaster, adventure or battle."

These (motto and metaphor) are determined by events in that character's life. It takes some thought to figure these "defining moments" out so she gave us a general method to do so.

Think about your character from birth to 5 years old. What event happened that framed the world view?

Then, from ages 5-10, what event reinforced that world view?

Next, from 10-18, what event continued to entrench that viewpoint?

From 18-22, what event further supported that viewpoint?

Finally, what event in your character's recent past set that viewpoint in cement?

Here's an example.

Let's take Jim. He has a life metaphor that "Life is a dangerous thing." His character motto is "Always be on guard."

Now, why does he have these? Because when he was 4, his mother took him to the park where she was mugged and seriously injured. He was alone with her for an hour or so.

When he was 7, on the way to school, a car ran a red light and hit the car he was in, wrecking the car and the other driver died.

When he was 13, the school bus he and the football team were riding on was involved in an accident and several students were seriously injured.

Next, when he was 18, at graduation, he was crossing the stage to get his diploma when the bleachers collapsed.

Poor wonder he has the worldview he does. Now of course you want to make the things that happen fit your character, these are just off the top of my head and I'm still half asleep:-)

Another thing she discussed was misguided beliefs and how it's the author's job to challenge them. These beliefs are dis-empowering such as, "I'm a loser" or "I can't do anything right." For example, the movie Rocky. His misguided belief was that he was a loser and the whole movie challenged that view.

Now, some general stuff from the conference. We had a really nice workshop on the synopsis. Honestly, they aren't as bad as most people make them out to be. One person related them to book reports. The basic info and mostly boring. The agent doing the workshop commented that she didn't read the synopsis until after she read the pages and what she was really wanting to know was what happened next and how you wrapped up the story. She wasn't expecting to find your "voice" in the synopsis, just how the story turns out.

We also did this seriously cool "progressive" writing exercise for fun after the Friday night meet & greet. If you need a writing game for an event, let me know and I'll email you the details.

After the older folks went to bed (the conference building had attached dorms on either side, one for men, one for women, meeting room in the middle) about 7 of us raided the kitchen for ice and drinks then played cards, laughed and snacked until about midnight. It was so much fun.

Saturday was filled with workshops. I didn't pitch anything to either the Tor editor or the agent but one of the ladies I met and became friends with did and both of them want her full and the agent was talking about revisions and how soon she could get it done and career stuff. I expect an "I've got an agent" email any day now.

If you get the chance to attend any writer's conference, I encourage you to go. Even if you aren't ready to pitch, you'll learn lots, make friends and have a great time. Not only that, it's a great way to recharge your writing battery.

And, that's exactly what I'm about to go do!

1 comment:

Sandra said...

Sounds exciting, Jean! I know I can't do any conventions this year, but maybe next or the year after. It sounds like a fantastic experience.