Sunday, February 22, 2009
Northwest Author Series
ESSENTIAL SKILLS FOR FICTION WRITERS
Today was the fifth presentation in the series supported by the Wilsonville Friends of the Library, and the Wilsonville Arts & Culture Council.
Christine Fletcher is the author of two young adult novels ("Tallulah Falls" and "Ten Cents a Dance") and a DVM! Like most avid readers she came across books that she was sure she could have written better. After attempting fiction while teaching veterinary technicians at a metro community college, she took the brave leap of quiting her job to write full time. Today we reaped the results of her success.
Ms. Fletcher didn't present much that I haven't already heard in fiction writing classes and writers' conferences; however, each time I attend such a session, a little more sticks with me.
Ms. Fletcher's "Rock Bottom Essentials" are: CHARACTER, CONFLICT, and DETAILS.
The ubiquitous character questionnaires are useful, but don't procrastinate while filling out every little detail. What really matters are the Protagonist's WANTS and FEARS and WHY those particular wants and fears. What does the Protagonist want more than anything? Why? What is at stake? The stakes don't have to be cosmic, but they must be huge for the Protagonist.
A compelling Protagonist is one who feels intensely and who takes action.
When selecting the Inciting Incident that sets the Story in motion and makes the Protagonist act, consider WHY that particular inciting incident and WHY that point in the Protagonist's life.
Character is revealed by action.
Conflict drives the story. Anthing that opposes the Protagonist creates conflict. Time (deadline) is often used to create conflict, and don't forget weather.
Conflict can be internal (sometimes the most interesting) or external. The situations that create roadblocks for the Protagonist may be simple to dire.
Conflict of some kind must appear on every page, whether subtle or small to fireworks.
Create an Antagonist worthy of the Protagonist. Know the Antagonist as well as you know the Protagonist -- his or her Wants, Fears and Whys.
"Torture" your characters! Don't pull your punches. Crank up the action as the Story continues. Each obstacle must be bigger and closer to the Protagonist's motivation as the stakes ramp up.
Never resolve all the Conflicts before the end of the Story.
Emerse the reader in the Story world through your prose style and the use of details.
Select the right sensory details to draw the Reader in. Help the Reader visualize the Story world, but don't forget the other four senses.
Description conveys emotion.
Precision counts. Use the right word.
Ms. Fletcher's years of teaching were evident. Although (if I understand correctly) this was her first effort at teaching fiction writing -- she was well organized, kept on point, had a helpful handout, and finished with adequate time for a few Q&A.
I thoroughly enjoyed today's session. The two hours zipped by and I left with additional ideas for fixing my own fiction.