Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Life, the Universe & Everything - week 3

Yes, it is that time again. More notes from the conference! LOL I know you are all excited so let's dive right in. :P Today will be focused solely on a very informative Writer's Workshop I attended.

Writer's Workshop

The first thing they emphasized was Tension Function or Stress Induction. Every scene, every chapter should induce stress or tension in the reader. However, a gracious host will release the tension regularly. It can be in the form of resolutions or comedic breaks or just a switch of focus, as long as the reader isn't kept in a constant state of tension. There are many kinds of tension: physical, emotional, romantic, the list goes on and on - just make sure it is present.

You must find a balance: if you increase the tension too slowly then the reader gets bored, if you hold it for too long without release then the reader will be too stressed and be forced to put the book down. You must anticipate your audience and let them ride the wave up and down with your characters.

Another point was that authors should write what they know. This is critical, you can't write something if you don't thoroughly understand it. Does that mean we are limited in what we write? Absolutely not, human's are flexible and resourceful beings. We can learn what we want to write. At all times we should have two areas of research: 1 - our topic we want to know 2 - our craft, a good writer will always be striving to improve and learn to write better.

Who do you write for? Always keep your audience in mind. Stories that are too real, are too real. It can make your audience uncomfortable. If your goal in telling a story is anything but to entertain then you will come across as false and deceitful. Readers are intuitive and they will feel cheated and will not continue to read, this book or any other book by you. They trust you to entertain them and provide an escape. You have an obligation not to let them down.

Writers must understand that they are not writing only a book, they are writing a career. Every book will contribute or detract from your overall reputation, keep that in mind and make each book its best version of itself.

There are three constants within a story - place, situation or time. If you change one of these you change the whole look of the story. For example: A wrench on a counter in a garage in modern times isn't much to think about, but what if the wrench was floating in outer space... answer the questions that immediately pop to mind about it (How did it get there? Why? When?)and you have the beginnings of a story just by changing the location. Now what if you put it in a different time, like 2000 years ago, just lying in the grass somewhere, how did it get there? again another story. Anything can tell a story, just alter one of the constants and ask it questions. Follow the path and you will find a story along the way.

Everyone has an idea shelf that they pull their thoughts from, the first answer you pull is usually the most common, just keep pulling down different answers until you find one that is unique and intriguing.

Be determined, be optimistic, and love what you do. The rest will come with time. :) Let's write the stories we are dying to read.

EXERCISE: I want us to come up with some interesting ideas behind a situation. I am going to describe a scene for you and I want you all to come up with a unique explanation for what is going on there. You are absolutely forbidden to use the first idea that comes into your head, unless you've come up with 3 other ideas and still like that one the best.

A house is dark, picture frames and artwork are strewn about the floor--none hang on the walls. A single flashlight lays on the ground in the middle of the room.

Okay Go! :)


  1. Another great post! Thanks for sharing all of this information. :)

    I like the idea about our idea shelves, and how the first idea we pull is often the most common or cliche. I remember reading this in a writing book by Orson Scott Card. He suggests giving that first idea a "twist." Three twists to be exact, before it is a truly original idea.

    I have to say, that is HARD. But, at the same time, very important.

  2. Ack! Renee you were too fast, I added an exercise LOL. Now you need to do the exercise :) Sorry, I didn't expect such speediness!

  3. Okay, so my 3rd explanation is that this is a reoccurring scene that a psychic has had for about three months. It’s a warning, but she wasn’t sure what it meant, until just now, as she brushed past a woman on the subway. When their shoulders connected, the flash of the room with the destroyed pictures sprang to her mind again. Now she knows that woman is somehow connected to the warning, she just has to find a delicate way to approach her.

  4. The house stood empty like the city around it. The shattered glass hanging in the windows a reflection of the horror that took place. Not a living soul was anywhere around, no one could have survived the nucleur blast that swept the metropolis only months ago. Or could they?

  5. I love your ideas guys! Keep them coming! :)

  6. Well the first thing that comes to my mind (the one I can't use) is a thief looking for a safe who was interrupted by the home owners pulling into the drive. But later on down the line of ideas, I imagine a spirit who is trying to signal somebody in the house and begins causing the pictures to fly off the walls and turning lights (such as the flashlight) off and on until the person finally leaves the house in terror, and then everything goes dark.

  7. very cool :) You guys came up with some cool ideas! Thanks for participating with me!



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