Now that The Mr has in his wonderful tenacity fixed my laptop at least enough that it will read its battery again (this is a big win… especially considering we probably are nowhere near being able to afford a new laptop right now, what with my broken cellphone screen… ahem… yeah…) I can finally blog about some of the absolute best take-away thoughts I had from the Storymakers 2013 conference.
J. Scott Savage (Farworld & Case File 13) and Tyler Whitesides (Janitors) gave a great class on the difference between an IDEA and a STORY. For example, you can have an idea of a fantastical world with a lot of different races with deep, significant histories and individual languages, and whatnot… but it’s not a story until you take a little creature called a Hobbit and give him a quest to throw a dangerous, sought-after ring into the far-off-across-lots-of-scary-lands fires that it was forged in.
STORY has to have five things: Characters, Goals, Obstacles, Consequences and some High Concept that sets it apart from other things.
High Concept was something I heard a lot over the conference, and while I’ve always thought it was important, it was pointed out that High Concept is more important now than ever before, because self-publishing is impacting national publishing’s influence. In other words, if you want it pubbed by the big 6, High Concept HAS TO BE THERE.
John Brown (Servant of a Dark God) gave some fabulous advice on keeping your reader in-tune with suggestions you might never have thought of, even though they’re magnificently simple. In other words: keep things in order. If you’re describing someone or something, work from top to bottom, close to far, whatever, just stay in one direction. Don’t hop from one direction to another. If something is happening, let the reader see that, see your character’s internalization if necessary, and react. Don’t try and start with the reaction… it just gets things mixed up in the reader’s mind. Really simple things, but key to stop your reader from having those “wait, what?” moments.
Keynote speaker Anne Perry (Charlotte & Thomas Pitt novels) gave a just beautiful speech about the fact that we all have had magical experiences, and as writers it is our duty to write them down, to reach out to human experience and say yes, I know what you’re experiencing and I’ve felt that way before. That’s a much less eloquent paraphrasing, but largely the same. She ended by saying “Have courage, and do it beautifully.”
And lastly, Agent Michelle Witte (The Craptastic Guide to Pseudo-Swearing) had a fabulous class on Voice that I just loved. She showed some wonderful examples from books such as I Capture the Castle and The Unfinished Angel, and made me feel like I did a decent job describing Voice in my own Blue Bicycle Experiment. My favorite thing that Witte said was “Be quietly distinct. You don’t have to shout. You don’t have to go overboard.” Life is in the details, after all. The trick is knowing that everyone sees those details a little differently than everyone else. Witte was good enough to fangirl about books with me a little bit after the lesson, too. Which was fun. 🙂
And that was my best take-away advice from Storymakers 13! It was a fantastic weekend, and I came home with a lot to think about. Hope this gave you a little sliver of that as well!