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Author Topic: Previous Portego Writer's Guild Workshop discussions by Just Prowling  (Read 46 times)
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« on: July 25, 2010, 08:06:37 PM »

 Previous Portego Writer's Guild Workshop discussionsPosted by Just Prowling on August 12, 2008 at 7:13pm in The Masque Portego Writers' Guild

I had the thought last night that since not everyone can make it to the live chat I'd post the presentations that I used here so that they can be discussed in another format as well. I'll go ahead and post the most recent three. And then every week around the workshop I'll post the most recent.

Feel free to chime in with your own thoughts on each subject. Every little thought counts, it's all about the imagination and what you have to say.
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 Permalink Reply by Just Prowling on August 12, 2008 at 7:15pm
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Delete PWG- 7/24

I'm sure we've all got a pretty good grasp on where our stories come from. Life experience, news, similar stories, etc. But, how well do you know your characters? I'm sure you know what they look like, who their families are? Hell, I'll bet you even know what they sound like when they talk. But, do you know where they went to school? What's their favorite cd? When they aren’t in peril, or falling in love, do you know what movie they chill out with before bed?

Have you thought to ask them? All it takes is an hour or two to just sit down with them and talk. Ask them the general questions. And don't answer for them. But rather, let them have their say. You'll be surprised by it. If they answer something that gets your attention, go with it. Let the questions branch. You'll learn things you didn’t even think to write. And even if they get evasive on you, that's a good glimpse into the type of person they are as well. You may not choose to use this information in your story, but it'll help you realize their natural reactions to the situations you put them in.

Okay, here's an excerpt from the exercise I posted early last weekend. An interview with my lead from the current DarkWalk story I'm working on.

On my last trip to South Cape, I had the opportunity to meet with Thomas Ballentine, of DarkWalk Investigations. We met up at a little café out on the boardwalk. He has a very casual vibe about him. He showed up in jeans and a "Go Green" t-shirt.

J.P: Thanks for meeting with me today, Tom. It's an honor to finally talk with you.
Tom: The honor's all mine. I've been wanting to do this for some time. It's rare that anyone wants to interview me. Except maybe the Sheriff's department or the local newspapers.

J: So as I understand it, you've been living here South Cape for about six months now?
T: Yeah, that's about right… truth be told I finally got all my crap unpacked about a week ago.

J: And where is it that you moved down from?
T: I'm originally from Manhattan. That's where I was born and raised.

J: Things busy at the agency, I take it?
T: Insanely so. This may look like a sleepy little Ville but it's a magnet for some seriously weird shit. I did some research into it recently and as it turns out, there's a huge convergence of ley lines right in the center of the island. That and Jamie keeps me hopping. (a playful little smirk curls at the corner of his lips)
 

 
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 Permalink Reply by Just Prowling on August 12, 2008 at 7:16pm
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Delete PWG -7/31

Okay, so hopefully after last week's discussion you now know better who your characters are. You should already at least have a general idea of what you are going to subject them to. That would be the plot folks. *grin* So what can we fluff up next to make a "meh" story bigger? Environment. *waits for the groans to subside* Your partners live in a world of your imagination and sure you see it perfectly clear but your readers don't. They need your help to be submerged.

Now, you could use the excuse that you want the leave it blank for the readers to decide for themselves. But that's just lazy. And frankly, that sounds like something I'd pull. But look at it this way? If you splash the story with a little color here and a little weather there you not only have led the audience where they want to go. But also you've now turned 10 pages of great dialogue into 12 pages of real life.

Don't get me wrong. It's tricky as hell. How much is too much? Well, my rule of thumb for the dryers at the Laundromat works here as well. If you think you've put in enough quarters? Add one more. Honestly? Your world will be richer for it. And if you've gone too far your readers probably won't notice, since there is a natural tendancy to skim if the author is wordy. But, if it's too little? They're going to notice that they aren't submerged.

I'm not saying you have to go over the top like Steinbeck or Hemmingway. "The table lamp was a dull faux gold paint with little paisley shaped swirls that ran around the neck. It utilized a 40-watt bulb that kept the room in a soft glow. Also upon the table was a ticket stub from a concert 5 years ago. The block lettering was still a rich black, the font was…" well, you get the idea.

But, if you take the time to point out the important things, give the readers the tour, well then you can reveal some things that they don't know they suspect. For example: "There was a light coating of dust on the old RCA television." This kind of thing gives your readers options. With this information, you can subtly lead them to believe that A: the guy's a slob, B: No one has been home for a while or C: He never watches TV anymore because he's a workaholic. I'm sure there are plenty more, but you get the idea. The same applies to weather conditions and lighting. Think of "It was a dark and stormy night" Leaves you with anxiety already doesn't it?
 

 
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 Permalink Reply by Just Prowling on August 12, 2008 at 7:17pm
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Delete PWG- 8/7

So, there you are. You've just written 3 pages of dialogue where your lead characters solved the mystery or finally reached the part where boy wins girl back after being incredibly stupid. Three pages of character exposition telling the reader what brought us all to this place.

And they just took down a bottle of wine while doing so. So, did you remember to let the reader watch that? After all, a book is a movie in the head. It's okay to not detail every little action during a conversation. But, every once in a while you may wish to let folks know that your puppets can move. Make them a bit more believable as living breathing creatures. Stop and read back through the dialogue out loud. Did you move your hands? Scratch an itch at your eye brow? Did your brow just show puzzlement or displeasure? Well, guess what? Chances are your star does that too. So spice things up a bit. Get your kids off their asses and make them exercise

Ex. 1 "I don't get it. Why on earth would Dante need to go to that club?" Sheila asked. (Static)
Ex. 2 "I don't get it. Why on earth would Dante need to go to that club?" Sheila asked as she drained the last of the tequila bottle and threw the shot glass across the room. (Kinetic)
 

 
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 Permalink Reply by Just Prowling on August 14, 2008 at 10:07pm
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Delete PWG- 8/14
I can't remember the origin, but not too long ago, I had a wonderful phrase grace my ear. "You can write about anything you like so long as you stick to your own laws." I'm pretty sure it was something sci-fi. Go figure, right? Basically it means this: Continuity.

If you're writing about a guy that can walk through walls and ignore the rules of physics, then so be it. Just make sure that he is affected by it in relatively the same way every time he does it. Or else your readers will get pulled from the story and go looking for rope to string you up with. Simply this, give them the laws early on so that they can get comfortable enough to settle in and take the journey with you.

This line of thought, by the way, applies to all forms of writing. Be it erotica, poetry, script. You can literally get away with any scenario so long as you obey your own laws. And the laws you follow can get you out of some serious scrapes as well. When I was writing the short story version, my kids went and wrote themselves into a convergence. Every member of the cast, 4 of which are bloodsuckers, was at the showdown. Well, fuck. Now how am I going to keep it just Tom and the Big Bad? The rule of vampire entry! If you're not invited you can't go in. SAVED! Thank the gods!

Though there are others that I choose to ignore as well. For instance, I don't like having my vamps fry in the sunlight. So I subscribe to the thought that it just makes them weaker. Which is a damn good thing, since my boy Jamus gets in deep shit with the cops all too often. It would suck to get released from jail after dawn and go poof. Well hell. There goes my lead.
 

 
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 Permalink Reply by Jane Harris on August 16, 2008 at 9:28am
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Delete Hello JP
I’ve been reading through your writers’ guild notes with great interest as I am just trying my hand at writing a story of my own. I have my own Forum of The Masque in which I answer people’s questions and I have tried a very short tale, which is on Mamma’s page under the discussion “New Challenge (Thanks BG)”, my contribution is right at the bottom.
So I actually have no characters to draw on and will have to develop my own. I was hoping that Mamma’s idea of a communal story (“I was thinkin’”) would go forward because if we had a genre and situation so that I can try to develop a character from scratch. I’m looking forward to it. How about you giving it a kick start?
One of my problems was in writing erotic bits. I get too self-conscious and embarrassed. To try and get over this I wrote a short story that was, I hope, a little erotic. I sent it to cis to read and edit it. She sent it back with some general suggestions as to improving it, I did and sent it back to her but she is busy with her novel so I don’t know how it went down. Would you have a look at it too?
I probably won’t ever write anything like it again as it was to try to lay aside a demon but I’d like an opinion. I have to say I am fighting an urge to delete it, but cis tells me I shouldn’t.
I am about to start writing a sci-fi story called “Bounders” hopefully that will be ready soon.
So I’m still going through your articles and will get back to you if I have any more questions. You don’t mind do you?

Janey XX
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