Saturday, December 16, 2017

SiWC 2016 Workshop #3 Narrative Dares

Narrative Dares
Jasper Fforde

Give yourself an idea -> what if someone had three legs who arrived in a world everyone had two legs
Jane Eyre gets kidnapped out of Jane Eyre, how do you get her back?

Works particularly well with speculative fiction. Like with a dare, you have to do it -> “I dare you to…” you can’t change your mind, go back.

You can’t let yourself off the hook. Annoying, but also liberating. When you get in trouble, you have to work doubly hard to get out of it. There’s no idea stupid enough that can’t work, if you do the quality of writing. You can play with it and eventually make it work. You have to rummage in your authorial toolbox.

A dare: There’s a gorilla up a tree, but the tree isn’t in Africa, it’s in a garden in Surrey.
Say to yourself, “explain.”

So, how does this story begin? There has to be a storytelling arc, it has to make sense, even if absurd.

Like a joke, there’s a buildup, and a payoff.

If you’re got a silly idea, hide it within a hundred other silly ideas. You don’t hide a stick in the desert, you hide it in the forest. What if Humpty Dumpty was murdered? So, hide him in a world of nursery rhymes, where none of the characters know they’re nursery rhymes, but of course the reader does.

Friday, December 15, 2017

SiWC 2016 Workshop #2 Voice & Viewpoint

Voice & Viewpoint
Hallie Ephron

HANDOUT (as per yesterday, I will look for this and update this post if I can find it)

Writing fiction is about making choices and one of the first choices you make is through which character’s perspective the reader will experience the events. Whose story is it?


Same content, different voices:

Factual voice: “It was a dark and stormy night…”
Attitude/Southern voice: “Damn in that rain didn’t come down in buckets and sheets…”
Literary voice: “A September storm battered a sleeping London…”
Telling a story voice: “He turned to look just in time to see the rain start falling out as if the storm had finally decided to weep with shame for what it had done to them.”

Viewpoint is more of a technical thing. Which characters narrates, it flows through the perspective of the character and filters it.

*A Wrinkle of Time - great example of distant 3rd POV switching into close 3rd POV. With 3rd POV, you can change the focus, zoom in and out. 3rd POC close can almost get as close as 1st POV, if skillfully handled.

Voice reflects the narrator, you should be able to open a book to a random page and know who is speaking a line by their grammar, sentence structure, word choice, etc because it reflects their attitude/etc.

*Moonlight Mile, Dennis Lehane - the subtext in the internal dialogue is especially good

*Edge of Dark Water, author? - another good look at voice

*Oblivion , Peter Abrams (sp?) an excellent unreliable narrator and very, very close 3rd POV

POV Tradeoffs:

Omniscient POV, the reader sees a lot, but it’s harder for the reader to bond with a particular character and care whether they succeed or not

1st POV you get super bonded with the main character, but you’re stuck there, you don’t get a wider perspective. Claustrophobic which is both the greatest weakness and greatest strength.

3rd is the most fluid, being able to zoom in closer or further away.

Single viewpoints: the reader doesn’t know what they character doesn’t know, so good if you want an unreliable narrator, surprises, etc.

Multiple narrators gives a wider view, and gives more suspense because you can see the characters working against each other - the readers now more than the individual characters.

Managing and controlling 3rd POV

3rd POV can get very messy, using ‘he’ and ‘she’ in a sentence can cause confusion if there are more than one male or female in the room, the problem of head hopping comes up.

-One person narrating at the same time

-Clear transitions/scene breaks to switch from one narrator to another

*Example in handout of getting away with headhopping, watch where it switches and how it stays in control. One of the major reasons the author gets away with it is because of the conflict that piques your interest: who is ‘he’ and why does Reine-Marie want to go with him? There is this isolated bomb: “He had to go to the Gaspe” to switch/tip, a dynamic, so using the page, the white space.

Deepening Viewpoint

Sometimes you feel you’re holding your character too much at a distance

How to take something that feels too distant and make it closer?

Eliminate sense words that distance the viewer: heard/saw/followed/listened
“Deirdre heard the doorbell chime” -> change to ‘The doorbell chimed.’

Add internalization/thoughts/etc: “The doorbell chimed.” add: “Was it the police? How could they have gotten here that fast?”

Layering in voice: “…her gaze travelled to the crutch Deirdre leaned against.” add: Deirdre was used to that.” -> get a sense of how Deirdre feels about people noticing her disability, a bit of edge.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

SiWC 2016 Workshop #1 LGBTQ Characters in MG & YA Fiction

LGBTQ Characters in MG & YA Fiction
Robin Stevenson

HANDOUT (note: I will look for this later and include it if I can find it)

Modern movement towards the LGBTQ civil rights movement began only about 50 years ago. In the late 1960’s same sex relationships were criminalized. Was illegal to serve food/alcohol to same sex couples so there were very few places to gather, the only exception was the Stonewall Inn, a bar in Greenwich Village, owned by a mobster called Fat Tony who monthly bribed the police to look the other way… but was still raided. June 28, 1969, when the police raided, the people fought back, riots broke out for  days in a row. Referred to ‘the shot that was heard around the world’ and brought a fragmented movement together. New groups formed and petitioned for change. Christopher Street Gay Liberation Day, 1970, considered the very first gay pride parade.

Youth has often driven the change, especially today.

People don’t hate what’s familiar, so today 80% know someone who is queer.

Assumptions that someone is hetero make LGBT kids feel invisible.

History/progression and examples of LGBT YA Novels:

First books tended to focus on gay, white (male) characters, and this is still pretty prominent.

Books: Adaption, None of the Above, Beautiful Music for Ugly Children, Symptoms of being Human - are a few that are starting to fill the gap.

Diversity AND Intersectionality: Aristotle & Dante, When the Moon was Ours, Not Otherwise Specified, If you Could be Mine - books with diversity beyond just ONE form of marginalization.

LGBTQ for Middle Grade: Better Nate than Ever, George, Lily & Dunkin, LumberJanes, Totally Jo, Days that end in Y. Definitely more resistance to getting LGBTQ into the Middle Grade fiction, really none that’s sci-fi, fantasy. Writing for MG kids, books should reflect the diversity of their world, even if they are ‘stealth’ characters -> friends of the MC, parents, friends parents, etc

Beyond Contemporary Realism, so not just ‘issue’ books and these are staring to leak into other genres, but certainly should have more: Far from You, Lies we Tell Ourselves, We Are the Ants, Other Bound, Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda.

Whose Story is it Anyway? #OwnVoices, where the writer is a member of whatever diverse/marginalized group: More Happy Than Not, If I Was Your Girl, Lizard Radio, Tell me Again How a Crush Should Feel.

Writing LGBTQ Characters:

Consider why you are choosing to write this story and character

Consider whether you are the right person to tell this story

Write complex characters - gender, sexuality are only one aspect of a person

Make sure that what you know about the LGBTQ community is current and relevant to LGBTQ youth

Be aware of the issues and challenges facing LGBTQ youth today
  • search Nerd Con 2016 ‘How to write a straight person’ panel for a satirical look at the questions writers tend to ask when writing a queer character.
Read a lot of current LGBTQ YA novels and read critiques BY young LGBTQ people (Tumblr, The Gay YA, Twitter, etc)

Do your research, carefully

Be aware of stereotypes and common problematic portrayals

Get beta readers who share character’s sexual/gender orientation, especially if you’re writing outside your own experience.

Be prepared to deal with criticism if writing about under-represented groups because there’s the burden of the single narrative (if there is only ONE book about a lesbian character, there’s only ONE narrative). The more books out there, the more narratives, so we can tell everyone’s story, not just one story.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

SiWC 2016 - and a brief catch up

Wow, I can't believe it's been over a year since I've posted on here.

I took some time off from the online-world to take care of family stuff, personal stuff, writing stuff, and honestly, I simply needed a break from the overwhelming bombardment of information that is the internet :)

So, welcome back! I'm gonna start off by posting all the notes I took from last year's Surrey International Writers Conference (because I know you all love that!), one per day for the next 8 days.

As usual, I haven't gone back and edited them, they are simply what I took as the workshop or panel was going on, so they are as complete as I could make them at the time. Taking notes at conferences always reminds me of my university days... madly typing as fast as possible :)

I missed the 2017 conference this year due to family commitments, but I was lucky enough to get a copy of the official booklet and had a great deal of fun paging through that (and felt more than a little jealous of my local writing buddies who did attend).

Virtual hugs to all of you, and here we go!

Friday, April 8, 2016

Progress: exciting & scary

This messy new story is starting to fall into place, in my brain at least, if not yet on the page.

(maybe at the point to write a temporary blurb & throw it up on my website soon)

EDIT: a VERY loose/rough blurb is now on my website. You'll notice there's almost no mention of plot  as I'm not far enough into it to know that yet :p *forever-pantser*

So, where am I at?

Mostly it's the idea(s) behind the story that are coming together. See, every time I start a new story, it's because there was something in the previous story that I wasn't able to fully explore.

And, coming out of TRoRS edits... I've already admitted I was craving a super emotionally messy story/MC because N was so emotionally stunted, and neither of the MC's in SCARLIGHT or AotD were satisfyingly 'messy' enough... (of course I will go back to those stories at a later date).

Other things I'm going to explore:

More on the notion of fluidity in relationships. The boundaries/lines between 'friend' and 'lover', and how/when those lines blur. Like with N from TRoRS, I'm not overly interested in writing a story in which a character 'labels' themselves, instead what I like is a self-identity paradigm shift.*

Another aspect is, I'm building off some long email conversations with a writing buddy about things like vulnerability & power imbalances, something we're both really interested in (hence the obscene length of said email exchanges...). 'Roles' we play in our relationships, ruts we fall into -> especially 'bad' ones we come to accept as 'normal'. Things like consent and emotional manipulation/abuse... so, 'y'know, 'light' topics.

To balance that out, this is also (possibly) the funniest story I've ever written...

And... physical intimacy.  Literally there is more physical intimacy on the first couple pages than in the accumulated total of everything else I've ever written. And this scares the crap outta me, 'cause this is a whole new dimension that I've never worked with and am afraid I'm not going to be able to do it justice.

(I've made jokes before how, if I ever write a 'normal relationship', it'll be one of the surest signs of the coming apocalypse)

This story also has the biggest cast of characters I've ever worked with (which is daunting!)... or maybe it just feels like it? Well, secondary characters with their own arcs...

...when all these things add up together, I feel like this is going to be the most emotionally complex story I've written... and I'm already no slacker when it comes to that.

So, uhm, yeah. Lots of reasons to be terrified, but also lots of reasons that I'm crazy excited and obsessed with this new story. It still doesn't have a proper title though :p

But voice? Oh yeah, that's totally the easy part ;)

BeBe (the MC) is already coming off the page, just the way I like 'em ;p

* This may be an unpopular belief, but I tend to think that labels are often more about the people around us than about ourselves. As in, we label ourselves to make it easier for the people around us to understand us ...and we are so much more than a string of easily-memorizable labels.