Writer’s Log: 2163 Workshop slides

Writers Unite!

Or, at least agree that we are never done perfecting our craft.

Here’s the PowerPoint that I’ll be using as fodder for my assault against my Writer’s Workshop class: GDoc Slides I’ll continue to tweak it in the coming two weeks, but if you read it and want to add or correct something, feel free.

 


15 thoughts on “Writer’s Log: 2163 Workshop slides

  1. Ahhh, the fleshed-out ten or elements of fiction, missing a couple. Was the dresser really scared? Watch your is/were verbs before you stand up in front of people. Somewhere in here the elements of fiction should be established and addressed as such. A discussion of the canons of rhetoric
    The best thing in here, which should be the kernel driving it?

    • Don’t spoon-feed your readers (I added the hyphen for you).

    Joan used her mother’s from-scratch recipe for jalapeno cornbread. Bob watched, amused, while she worked up beads of perspiration cranking a wooden spoon around the old Corningware bowl clenched in the crook of her arm. He reached out with his little finger, lifted the renegade strands of hair stuck to her cheek.
    “Don’t,” she growled.
    “Don’t what?”
    “Don’t laugh, ’cause you’re about to and don’t ask me what’s in it.”
    “Okay. Sweat much more you’ll wish you’d backed off on whatever salt she thought was enough. Unless she figured on the –” The batter covered wooden spoon flew up, stopped a quarter inch from his nose.
    “Out!”
    We don’t need momma’s recipe, or to stand by Joan while she does all the kitchen chemistry set bullshit. Joan made her momma’s cornbread. Make it real, next.

    You know tags are ok on occasion. If you’re lazy or can’t find your emotion thesaurus or don’t want to write totally like a director all the time or don’t want the word count required when one will do the job. Adverbs, though. Don’t go there. I don’t care if Faulkner did win the Nobel prize.

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    1. This is ground level writer’s advice. I believe that “fiction”‘s purpose, or even the writer’s purpose is one or two levels up from here. I’m going for raw mechanics, stuff I got wrong out of the gate.

      “is/were” – do tell.

      These are talking points. Not tenets. Dialog tags, yeah, once in a while is fine. Don’t rely on them (as I did when starting – ergo my list).

      The bottom list of Writer’s WRules #2 is all your advice — things Duke picked upon.

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      1. Ground level writer’s advice is working the exercises in “The Lie That Tells A Truth”. I apply that as everything from a young quarterback’s eye thorugh an rebellious fuck y’all plastic motherfuckers acid casualty’s avant garde arteest to a top level music industry clinician’s expectations. See it, learn to apply what will make it work for you as second nature. Noah had some help with that ark, he didn’t just pull it out of his ass. Which is why I rely heavily on the cosmic radio and editing tomes. The day you quit “writing” you become a better writer. “I don’t need dancers who want to dance. I need dancers who have to dance.”

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        1. I don’t have a copy of that “The Lie That Tells A Truth”, but from I can tell it all seems level 3 and 4 stuff, the nuanced levels. The expert levels. Maybe there are exercises in there that address the true plebeian skills I’m seeking to share, but they’re not evident from the previews I’ve seen.

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          1. His how to set a scene stuff is superb. Even for a novice. Because he takes an additive approach to the elements that breathe life into a scene. Even plebian writers should write to a prompt, even of their own choosing and use the same set of additive enhancer because it teaches you to see a scene. Skills in evidence from Saint King to the nuanced writers. Something even PD James discusses in the difference between a full blown (overly described) novel to knowing how to shorten that to what is necessary. McDonald, Leonard, and all the writers that writers claim as influences know when to hit it and when to stretch it based on what the scene needs to convey. If you don’t know what play to call you’ll never get where you want to go, and that is ground zero mechanics. Learn to write well in chunks, motifs if you will, THEN assemble them with an eye for how your arc, regardless of genre, will expand. If you can;t get two unhappy people out of the kitchen of a mobile home without showing us who they are, what they’re after the rest is of little consequence. Write 750 to 1500 words that fucking work, that say what you want said. Like a bellows on a fire. I swear to God it’s not about ranking skill levels and rules, it’s about understanding what you see in a “scene” and getting it out of your head. Stand in the middle of it, look around at what your characters see, who they are, what’s in the sink and out the window that tells the rest of us what the hell is going on. BAM words. Grimy. Spotless. A lace curtained doll house with a black matte Harley in the middle of the living room dripping oil into a foil roasting pan. Learn to do THAT. After that the rest is cake.

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          2. The real answer to what you said is – Well why the fuck not? Because maybe it’s over yours or someone else’s head? All this air about being better and you don’t have a shelf full of good how-to reference material? And you’re going to teach? Holy fuckballs.

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  2. Hi A.Mole,

    My head is scattered right now. I feel like eating crab cakes. Anyway, thanks for reminding me of these things. I think most writers settle on a certain set of guidelines that make emotional sense to them and then they use those guardrails for a while and maybe change somewhere down the road or not. It depends. As I read this post, I was reminded of many great writers who finally ran out of gas. They still were capable writers, but whatever possessed them earlier was gone. What possessed them? I think you should add that to this list. What the hell possess us? It is something real, no doubt, but is different for each person. I’m talking about something deep inside, something personal, maybe horrible. Maybe an addiction, or a death or three, a lover, a loss, an unrequited lust of who you think you really are …the need to stop hiding. Two points really got my attention, the story should have meaning and the writer’s emotions should flow through the characters. The first point I am unsure about, if you mean a general meaning, universal, easily absorbed, then you leave me feeling sad, because sometimes I just can’t write that way. I know my words are indecipherable, but I can do nothing else. Fuck. About emotions, I’d expand that point and move it to the very beginning of this list. In my opinion, what makes good or great writing is the emotion a writer brings to the words. Emotions are tricky. They can be sticky and sweet or unusual, unexpected, they can twist and turn to some sort of terrible or happy ending. Emotions are the glue of the words. I think they should always be apparent, except in connecting text that is meant only to move the story, but in all the other places they are the signs that tell who the writer is. I think we have discussed RMRilke before and he is sometimes hard to read and generally he is brilliant, limping from one idea to the next, tapping into his emotions. I think once I sent you a cutting read by DHopper. Remember? Here are three of his short paragraphs that forever cemented his place in the written world.

    The Panther

    His vision, from the constantly passing bars,
    has grown so weary that it cannot hold
    anything else. It seems to him there are
    a thousand bars; and behind the bars, no world.

    As he paces in cramped circles, over and over,
    the movement of his powerful soft strides
    is like a ritual dance around a center
    in which a mighty will stands paralyzed.

    Only at times, the curtain of the pupils
    lifts, quietly–. An image enters in,
    rushes down through the tensed, arrested muscles,
    plunges into the heart and is gone.

    The Panther is a reason to write. There is something inside of you trying to get out, but look at all those fucking bars. Can you convey the world as it really is? Can you be free to write the way you feel? Are your emotions independent gods of nature that create images, words, stories? Motherfucker.

    Anyway, I’d like to send you something else. I’m feeling that way right now. Have you seen “Youth”. It also gets at these ideas. Good luck with your writing. I need to write something. Something. Fuck. Thanks. Duke

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    1. Duke, thanks for you input, always appreciated and instructional (to me).

      Writer’s WRules are more akin to guidelines, aspects of writing that, if one picks a few, uses them like exercise drills, then hopefully they stick and become part of your writer’s persona.

      1) The story should have meaning.
      Theme, story intent, social commentary — such things are nice to haves. And I don’t think I can write without them.
      2) Tell the story through character’s voices.
      A number of those topics you found come from Phil Huston. He’s provided insightful advice for a few years now. He’s stingingly acerbic, but there’s always a kernel of insight in his lashings.

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