Wednesday 30 November 2016

Writers Workshop #9 What have we learnt?

I'm always a bit wary of recap episodes - they either get really annoying because you sit there going yep, yep, yep, yep or you listen in a growing panic as you can't remember any of things mentioned. Unluckily for me, this month's workshop was a little bit of both.

My entire writing journey often feels like that scene in Tangled.  I oscillate rapidly between the two.

We were given a handy checklist.  Some of it covers things that you would check without even thinking about it, others are things that I most certainly did not do with my book due to be published in January.  Does that mean that I should tear it all up and start again?  My soul is in a corner crying. I cannot.  All I can do it learn and grow.  This business they call writing isn't easy despite the dearth of novels that are available for us to read.  You'd think anyone can do it but the thing is - just because anyone can do it doesn't necessarily mean anyone should be doing it.  Like all things in life really.  I digress.

Writers workshop left me feeling very wobbly as a writer.  Playwriting course which happened two days later lifted me up to a higher state of being.  But that is another blog entirely.

The Checklist (as always take with a pinch of common sense, it's a guiding hand)

  • Do they have desires?
  • Are they distinctive enough to not be cliches?
  • Do they have contrasting traits that make them complex?
  • Are your characters consistent?
  • Do your characters have the ability to change?
  • Do you know your characters well enough?
  • Are the right characters 'round' and the right characters 'flat'?
  • Are you showing your characters more than telling them?
  • Are you utilising all four methods of showing - action, speech, appearance, thought?
  • Do your characters have the right names?
  • Do you have a major dramatic question?
  • Do you have a protagonist with a strong goal and plenty of obstacles?
  • Does your protagonist have both external and internal obstacles?
  • Do you have a beginning, middle and end?
  • Is your beginning free of exposition and to the point?
  • Does your conflict escalate in the middle?
  • Are the events in your middle linked by cause and effect?
  • Do you have crisis, climax and consequences at the end?
  • Is your ending plausible, satisfying, and not too long?
Point of View
  • Does your story work best in first, second or third person?
  • Does your story work best with a single-vision or multiple-vision POV?
  • Is there any reason your story might work best with the omniscient or objective POV?
  • If you're using a second or third person narrator, how close emotionally is the narrator in to the story and characters?
  • Are you keeping your POV consistent?
  • Are your descriptions utilising all five senses?
  • Are your descriptions specific enough?
  • Are you overusing adjectives and adverbs?
  • Are you using figurative language and lyrical techniques where appropriate?
  • Are your descriptions overdone, choking your story?
  • Are you using telling details?
  • Are you watching out for such description traps as cliches and mixed metaphors?
  • Do your descriptions reflect the consciousness of your POV character or characters?
  • Are you using dialogue and scenes for the more important points to your story?
  • Does your dialogue sound real yet also get to the point quickly?
  • Do your tags call too much attention to themselves?
  • Are you using stage directions to enhance your dialogue?
  • Do your characters sound distinctive from one another and appropriate to who they are?
  • Is there anywhere your dialogue can be improved by using subtext?
  • Does your dialogue contain clunky exposition or off-putting dialect?
  • Have you grounded your story in a specific place, or places?
  • Have you grounded your story in a specific time, or times?
  • Do the place and time of your story affect the action?
  • Are there opportunities to let the setting enhance the atmosphere or mood?
  • Do your characters act in a way that reflects either their comfort or discomfort with the setting?
  • Are you describing your settings so much that they slow down the action?
  • Have you chosen the right places either to expand or to compress time?
  • Have you picked a voice that works in harmony with your POV choice, the personality of your narrator, and the narrator's emotional distance to the story?
  • Do your word, sentence, and paragraph choices support your voice?
  • Does your voice remain consistent throughout the story?
  • Have you identified a theme for your story?
  • Does your theme surround your story with a light enough touch?
  • Do all elements of your story work to support the theme?
  • Have you gotten enough distance from your story to begin the revision process?
  • Have you considered re-envisioning your story?
  • Have you looked through a magnifying glass at the Big Things in your story?
  • Have you looked through a microscope at all the Little Things in your story?
  • Have you cut and tweaked as much as you possibly can?

If reading through that makes your palms clammy and brings home the realisation that good writing is a lot more than just putting down words on a page then you're in good company.  Just take a moment to consider the different people in your life and think about how they are different and how they react to life - it's a good measure to use against the characters in your story.  When struggling with daily word count or trying to find a vehicle to move the plot on then just add an obstacle, things will soon start flowing again.  Think about your own emotional challenges - what stops you from achieving your goals?  Real or imagined, we are all people dealing with life in our own individual way.

(List courtesy of Writing Fiction: A Practical Guide from New York's Acclaimed Writing School by Gotham's Writing Workshop)