Sunday, August 30, 2009

Storycrafters from My Book Therapy

Welcome to the tour for My Book Therapy!

My Book Therapy is offering a Storytellers Retreat in Minnesota this fall. To give you a taste of what is in store, I sent in three questions to author Susan May Warren and I'm happy to give her answers! Just keep on reading; they're after the retreat info. Enjoy!

From Here to There –

Going from raw idea to a drawn-out plot

How do you take your ideas and turn them into a story?

How do you know if your idea will sell?

Where do you start?

This working storytellers retreat, set just outside of
Minneapolis during the beautiful fall season is designed for a writer who has an idea…but needs help putting it together into a plot.

Come with your idea, leave with a game plan. We’ll teach you story structure, and then go step by step in the character creation and plotting process, explaining how to determine each step, and then show you how to apply it to your story.

We’ll brainstorm your ideas with you, share essential secrets of storytelling, and finally, you'll take home a filled-out workbook that will act as a map as you write your novel.

For beginners to advanced writers who just want a guide along the way, the From Here to There Storycrafter's Retreat will jumpstart your novel further down the road to publication.

Storycrafting & Coaching Retreat for Writers

Friday, October 23, 2009 1:00 pm -
Sunday, October 25, 2009 11:00 am (Central Time)

Riverwood Inn & Conference Center
95th St. NE
Otsego, MN 55362

For more information, visit here for more information.

And now, here are my questions and answers!


Pattie asks:

1. How can I stay organized while I'm writing a book? I have notes everywhere!

Oh, me too! I am a “horizontal” organizer – I like to have my notes everywhere. For a month or two as I am hashing out my rough draft, I have sort of a “nest” around me that I simply climb in and out of. However, sometimes to keep the craziness down, I create a notebook – a three ring binder that holds my story notes, my character sheets, my research notes and a devotional that I usually write for every story (think of it as my own spiritual journey as I write). Then it is all in one place and not quite as messy. But I still keep my research books open…

2. All I ever hear about fiction is "show, don't tell." Well, I need help determining if I'm showing instead of telling. My novel must have some description and conversation, after all!

Oh, my favorite topic!! I know this is so hard to wrap your brain around. Let’s see if I can help.

Basically: Telling is when you TELL someone how to feel. It relates to the emotion to the story. With Showing, the key is to let them into the pov character’s head and communicate enough for them to experience with the character --their emotions, their journey.

Let’s take a common issue: conveying emotions.

If you say: She felt grief, or even eg; (and this is more common), “Grief overtook her”, you are pinpointing one emotion your reader must feel with the character. Instead, show us how despair makes her feel – physically, or act, or think, or even see the word. Let us into their heads:

Eg: She stood at the edge of the closet and stared at his polished shoes, at his pressed wool suits, at his crisp silky red ties. A tidy man. Not the kind to wrap his car around a tree. But there, in the back…she pushed aside the shirts and pulled out his letter jacket, the one he’d wrapped around her the night they’d met. She inhaled. Thirty years, and still his scent lingered. Please, let it linger. Please let her rewind, go back to the fight, erase her words. Erase his anger. Without a word, she stepped inside the closet, closed the door behind her, pulled the jacket over her, and wept.

Never once do I say that she is grieving – but (hopefully) you get it. The point of not telling, and showing isn’t to dumb down the reading, but rather to connect us more to the POV character.

If I had said: She stood in front of the closet and grieved, that would be telling the reader her emotion.

Further from that, but also a bit telling: is She stood in front of the closet and felt grief course through her.

Better would be: She stood in front of the closet and wept.

Best would be to use the action – the example I gave.

Here’s a rule of thumb, also – Tell actions that are common to all of us – she tied her shoe, she made coffee, she answered the phone. SHOW things that you want to make impact.

Eg – if you want the answering the phone to have impact, then have her reach for the phone, check the caller id, maybe hover her thumb over the receive button. Then push it before her courage fails (or whatever).

***Physical Description and Dialogue IS NOT TELLING.

Narrative can be telling, if it is a long passage of back-story. But two lines of back-story are not telling. Can they be conveyed better? Sure – put them into dialogue – a much better way to convey back-story. Or even, inner thought. But that is also not telling.

Again, telling is all about telling us what the character feels.

The bottom line is… What does a POV character DO because of what it is (aka, feels).

Does that help?

3. How do I know if I am really doing a good job with writing fiction? When should I hang up my pen and just stick with nonfiction blog stuff?

This is a good question. Hmm…I think it is when your writing sings, and you know it. When it makes you think…I wrote that? When you say, I really understand that character. Maybe put it away for a while, read sometimes else, maybe from your favorite author…then come back to it. If you love it when you come back to it, then I think you are on the right track.

Thanks to Susie for her visit, and be sure to find out more about My Book Therapy visit the website!

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