Come play inside a writer's brain, scary!

Posts tagged ‘William Goldman’

First Monday Mentoring Nov – how do writers fill the creative well?

Last month I blogged about the importance to your professional development of attending writing conferences and festivals. Today I’m talking about another aspect I call “filling the well.”

How do writers find new things to write about? It helps to be interested in a wide range of subjects, not only those of personal concern but appealing to the world at large. My family calls me a “mine of useless information”, though it comes in handy at trivia nights, because I’ve researched such a wide variety of topics from opal mining to space shuttle operation.

You can combine your conference attendances with rambling research either related to your current writing project, or simply because it’s there.

In my book, The Idea Factory, I called these absorption trips, a name coined by screenwriter, William Goldberg, who suggests you become a sponge, soaking up input wherever you go. Almost any experience can be turned into an absorption trip, from dentist visits to shopping trips. Train yourself to see not only what’s there, but what could be there. What if your dentist is making a fortune through selling illegally plundered gold teeth? If you use this idea, best not use your real dentist’s name to protect the innocent.

When visiting new towns and cities, explore the local businesses, talk to the locals and learn as much as you can about their lives and why they do what they do. Tell them you’re a writer so they don’t think you’re just nosy. Most people I’ve met are flattered by sincere attention.

I’ve also developed many story ideas from reading journals I don’t normally see. Flying to a writing conference in Brisbane not long ago, I was leafing through the in flight magazine, fascinated by a reference to an Irish town as a “thin place” where the boundaries between the real and the supernatural are easily breached. Tantalising as that concept is, I won’t write about it because any writer seeing that reference will feel the same.

Stories “plucked from the headlines” need to be written quickly or not at all, before another questing mind can beat you to it. Many writers believe their ideas have been “stolen” when the truth is, we are all exposed to much the same creative influences. Years ago I indulged my passion for sci-fi by creating a romance hero who might have arrived by UFO. While the book, The Leopard Tree, was in production, I read a review of another book where the hero…you guessed it. There’s no copyright on ideas, only in how they are developed by the writer.

Best-selling novelist, Dean Koontz, said in an interview that he advised writers to do two things. The first is to write, write, write. Concentrate on developing your writing craft to the highest calibre you can. The second is to read, read, read. Koontz says the more you broaden your interests as a reader, the more you broaden your talent as a writer.

He says you should read a book first as a reader, then analyse it to discover the “nuts and bolts with which the story is built.”  As you make the effort your subconscious “will make all sorts of associations and connections, and over time it will give you the critical understanding you are seeking.”

Researching facts is best done through Google and similar resources. Your absorption trips supply the bits you can’t research – the sights, sounds and even smells of a new place or setting, and the accents, clothes and attitudes of the people you meet. Not only will these details fill your creative well with new ideas, they will add a richness to your writing that you can’t get any other way.

Recently I explored some wonderful new places in the USA including a magical Butterfly House and a tour of the Johnson Space Centre, Houston. Tax deductible because it’s research, My story and I’m sticking to it.

How do you find your new insights and stories? Have any of your travels resulted in ideas that excited you enough to write about them? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comment box below. They’re moderated to avoid spam but your posts go up right away if you  click “sign me up” at right. I don’t share your details with anyone.

Happy writing,

Valerie

on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook

Masterclass  Canberra, Australia : 18 November  Romance Writing Re-imagined  ACT Writers Centre  https://www.eventbrite.com/e/romance-writing-re-imagined-with-valerie-parv-tickets-35421113504?aff=Valerie 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

First Monday Mentoring for July – why do we tell stories? Why do they work?

Welcome to First Monday Mentoring when this blog looks at the realities of the writing craft – the fear of the blank screen that never goes away, the sensation of being an observer in life and wondering if you’re missing the sensitivity gene. Truth is, you’re not insensitive – you’re a writer. Observing life at its most extreme: births, weddings, funerals, is what writers do. Then we translate the experience onto the screen or page and make sense of it for the non writers.

Into the Woods
Recently I read a fascinating book called Into the Woods: how stories work and why we tell them. The author, John Yorke, created the BBC Writers’ Academy and brought a vast array of dramas to British screens.
His book explores the unifying shape of narrative forms, from the archetypal fairy tale journeys “into the woods” to today’s blockbuster movies. Yorke says that stories are all rooted in the same ancient structures.
While he explores these structures in detail and shows them at work in everything from Star Wars to “kitchen sink” dramas, he doesn’t recommend that writers follow structure as a blueprint, but rather as a template to check your writing against after your first drafts are done.

Stories are not paint-by-numbers exercises.

You can follow every writing guru slavishly step by step and still not make a story that speaks to your readers. Writing is similar to baking a cake. We all use the same mix of flour, eggs, butter and flavouring – in our case, plot, characters and setting – but the results depend on how well you do the baking.
Yorke references a lot of writers I’m fond of, from Dr. Who’s Russell T Davies to William Goldman’s iconic Adventures in the Screen Trade, books I have on my shelves and refer to often. I’ve lost count of the number of copies of the Goldman book I’ve given away.
Interestingly, many of these books were written for screenwriters, before novelists discovered them. Many, like Linda Seger have adapted their books for narrative writers, but the originals – for me anyway – are hard to beat.
As Yorke contends, it’s all about structure and in this, readers raised on YouTube and Netflix increasingly expect novels to echo screenwriting principles. Get into a scene as late as possible, and out as early as possible. Keep the story moving regardless of genre. Let the readers do a lot of the work, don’t force feed them. Let them reach their own conclusions. Let them think.

If, like me, you enjoy revisiting classic TV from the 1960s to the 80s, you’ll notice marked differences between then and now. Today there’s far more showing than telling with fewer round-up scenes at the end where characters tell each other what happened and why, as if the reader hasn’t worked it out long before. Like dialogue, character actions are more natural, instead of moving around the page/set like chess pieces.

In the romance genre at least, storytelling was more fun before you could track people by their phones, or build suspense with a “secret baby” – a child the hero didn’t know he’d fathered. These days DNA testing leaves little doubt. Although a full test takes a bit longer than most TV shows and some books would have us believe.
But while limiting some story options, technology can open up new possibilities. In my Beacons sci-fi series, I used modern technology to hijack the space shuttle, and a private jet to launch it, supported by input from the jet’s brilliant designers. Google “Mandelbugs” for another topic I play with in the series.

Recently on ABC Statewide I had a fun discussion about the role of technology in modern relationships – using emojis in place of body language, for example.

Curiously, however far writers go out into space or how deeply into human psychology, as John Yorke points out, the basic story structure remains largely unchanged. The why of storytelling also remains fixed – to explain the world to us, and us to ourselves.

Why do you enjoy telling stories? Have you ever considered structure as a factor and how do you use it? Please share your experiences here. The blog is moderated to avoid spam but your comments can appear right away if you click “sign me up” at right. I don’t share your details with anyone. Happy writing!

Valerie
on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook
Valerie’s latest book, Outback Code, is out now
3 books complete in one volume
For international orders, print & ebook formats,
Booktopia http://tinyurl.com/hj3477e
From Amazon for Kindle http://tinyurl.com/hxmmqsk

First Monday Mentoring for August – why writing “as soon as…” won’t get your work done

Welcome to the first Monday in August when I open this blog to your questions about writing. They can be on creative issues or business, such as dealing with agents, editors and publishers, or anything to do with the writing life.

Next week I’m presenting a workshop at the Romance Writers of Australia annual conference in Sydney, and I’m bound to come across one or more writers who intend to start writing “as soon as…” I don’t expect to be reading their books any time soon if at all, and here are three reasons why.

1. “As soon as…” never comes

What these writers mean is they will write as soon as everything in their life is under control. And guess what? Life is never that co-operative. If you truly want to write, you need to start now, no matter what state your life may be in.

Writers are good at what Oscar-winning screenwriter, William Goldman, calls, “putting off doomsday.” Yes, writing is hard. But it will never get any easier while you tap dance around the process.

62540_453627554683374_566795950_n

2. You will always have an excuse not to write
Do you recognise any of these? I’ll write when:
I have more time
I know what I want to write about (you find out by writing)
The weather is not so hot/cold.
Christmas/New Year/School holidays are over
I finish my research
I’ve defrosted the fridge
The world becomes perfect

Nobody ever has all the time, money or clear head space to start writing. Some of the most successful books were written under the most difficult conditions. I’ve written while moving house, when family members were sick, and when writing was the last thing I wanted to do. Writers write.

3. Writing is like housework. It expands to fit the time you have.
A meme going around the internet says that we get the most housework done in the five minutes before unexpected guests drop in. The same can be said of writing. Have you noticed how you can fiddle around all day trying to get something written. Then as soon as you know you have to be somewhere else at a set time, the words seem to flow?

If only you didn’t have to leave now.

This is your creative brain tricking you into thinking the writing is suddenly easier, knowing perfectly well that you have no choice but to leave it soon.

One solution is to pretend you have to leave the desk an hour or more before you actually do. If this spurs your writing brain, you’ll get as much done as if you’d been there all day.

Another trick is to set a kitchen timer. Tell yourself you’ll write for the next thirty minutes then you can stop. But don’t stare at the blank screen. Write something. Write garbage. But write words. This act of starting is almost magical, making it easier to keep going. You may not even notice when the timer goes off because you’re already caught up. And if you are ready to stop by then, at least you’ve put in a solid thirty minutes at your chosen task.

Remember, the world doesn’t care whether or not you write. You are the one who’ll feel you’ve let yourself down by not writing the project burning inside you. And unless the words are burning inside you, you may never write at all.

Set deadlines for yourself. Even writing one page a day (about 250 words) every day for five days a week will give you a 65,000 word manuscript – the length of a genre novel – by the end of a year. And that’s with weekends off.

How do you get past the “as soon as…” challenge? Comment using the box below. I moderate posts to avoid spam. If you want your comment to appear right away, sign up using the button at lower right. I don’t share your email addresses with anyone. Happy writing.

Valerie

http://www.valerieparv.com
AORW cover
on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook
Read some reviews of Valerie’s first Beacons novel, Birthright, at http://www.valerieparv.com/birthright.html

Tag Cloud