Sunday, August 9, 2009

Willamette Writers Conference, Day Three

My butt is sore, I have a headache, and I feel like my brain is going to explode from all the information jammed into it. Post-conference daze.

I wandered about a little more today: Point of Narration (PON) vs. Point of View (POV), Charlotte Cook; "Ideation" - The Development of an "Idea" into a "Story," Larry Brooks; How to Market Your Book to Tweens, Dale Basye; and The Mystery of Voice, Eric Witchey.

Most of us understand what Point of View (POV) means -- first person "I", third person "he, she, or it," etc. Charlotte Cook, president of KOMENAR Publishing, added Point of Narration (PON) to our writing vocabulary. PON is basically where the writer is "standing" in the scene while telling the story. It's the character who is telling the story. POV is the distance from the character narrating the story. The story can be told by an all-knowing Narrator from outside of the scene, but Ms. Cook believes First Person or Close Third Person from within the scene brings more immediacy to the story. The story is filtered through the Narrator, therefore, the details presented in the story tell the reader how the Narrator views and moves around in his or her world and therefore reveals character.

Larry Brooks has developed what he calls the "Six Core Competencies" of a publishable story. The four "Elements" include: Concept, Character, Sequence, and Theme. Scene Construction and Writing Voice are the methods of "Executing" the Elements. Larry has developed his story architecture based on Syd Fields' Screenplay -- the three-act structure for story telling. I've attended Larry's sessions before and have found his information profoundly helpful. Today he focused on fully examining Concept, Character, Theme, and Sequence -- all four of which must be fully developed in a good story. Concept is the "What if?" germ of the idea. Character is obvious. Theme is the "moral landscape the story is exploring," and sequence is the "this happens, then this happens" aspect of the idea. An idea will be sparked in one or more of these Elements, like "what if the Titanic is raised from the ocean floor?" But for the idea to truly become a story, all four Elements must be examined.

Dale Basye is the author of Heck, Where the Bad Kids Go. He is another WWC success story, having pitched his story to an editor from Random House during the conference a few years ago. He got a two book deal out of it, and has since made a deal for two more books in the series. Dale explained that "Tweens" are generally 8-12 years old. They are irreverent, rebellious and aspire to be teens -- or their idea of what a teen is. Teens (12-18) of course, aspire to become adults and leaving behind the angst of being a teenager. It was Dale's experience that the publishing house did a good job of publicizing his books and getting them widely distributed, but provided little in the way of marketing. We've been hearing this for years -- authors should be prepared to do their own marketing. Since today's Tweens are tech savvy ("native speakers" so to say), he suggested vehicles for reaching potential readers and gave advice on how to approach Tweens. They are experts at detecting BS, so be genuine and never condescending.

I enjoyed Eric Witchey's Saturday session so much that I attended his session on Voice today. I'm glad I did, since he had a detailed handout that covered much of what he addressed over the three days. Eric said there are four "voices" in a story: the writer's, the reader's, the narrator's, and the character's. The writer's voice is that one we listen to every day in our head that mumbles and grumbles throughout our lives. The reader's voice is his or her own internal voice. The author has no control over these voices, but should be aware of their existence. What the writer can manipulate are the voices of the narrator and characters. Eric also indicated that the perception of the story world and events will be filtered by the narrator. The narrator's voice will reveal education, social class, etc. All the choices the author makes about the "locus" of the narrator and the perception of the characters is all part of manipulating the prose to create the desired effect in the reader. In other words, writers mess with people's minds! (hee hee)

I had to laugh. Per usual, different experts had apparently conflicting advice for authors. The story narrator must be one of the characters vs. The story narrator can be distant and omniscient . Sheesh! Just like attending riding clinics. You appreciate the knowledge and skills of the expert, absorb as much information as you can, determine what works for you and your horse, and set aside what doesn't. So I end up with a blending of expertise that works for me and my horse at that time and place until I'm ready to absorb and apply the next stage of knowledge. I use the same process at the writing conference.

Anyway -- it is affirming, and energizing, and enjoyable to spend a weekend surrounded by people who share my passion for words and stories.

2 comments: said...

Thanks for including me in your blog today. I appreciate your succinct evaluation of Point of Narration. I will probably even quote you in my blog!

Shared Glory said...

I'm glad you had fun! :) Waiting for the next chapter somewhat impatiently ;)