27 May 2011

Gems from CONduit - Day 1

I've been attending CONduit for probably ten years. In the past I've come, gone to panels, soaked up a bunch of writing tips, left, arrived home, would get excited about writing for a little while before the whole experience wore off and I ended up right back where I started. A but wiser, perhaps, but not much further ahead. Farther? Whichever.

So I figure that I've heard it all. Or at the very least most of it. However, today I found a few nuggets of truth tucked into the panels I attended. I'll share.

On Streamlining Fiction:
If any part of your story doesn't move the plot forward to the inevitable conclusion, cut it.
If you or your alpha readers start skipping to the end of paragraphs instead of reading the whole six lines, you're being too verbose. Cut back
Do your characters learn anything from the scene? If not, cut it.

Ice Cream Characters
Vanilla, to be specific.
As you dig for character motivations, look at what the pressures of their life are. Is it the world around them, an internal debate, family, friends . . . this is what drives the characters.
A succession of “safe” choices by a character (instead of risky, tough or wrong choices) make a vanilla character.
And my personal favorite: beware the vanilla cast!
Someone mentioned roll playing your characters. Uh, who wants to let me pretend to rip their eyes out? Just wondering. :)

Screenwriting 101
I learned a lot from this, but perhaps the most shocking is the following:
As a screenwriter you never, ever put down in words what the character is thinking. You stay out of their heads.
But I'm a writer! I long to dive into people's heads and figure out how they tick.
Oh, and they mentioned that dialogue on the screen is all about what's not being said. I think Robert McKee said the same thing in his book

Tracy Hickman On Writing
I'd seen part of this presentation before. He told us about the 8 archetype characters that are always in a story. Then he told us how to make them complex characters. It kind of hurt my head the way he did it, and I'm still trying to figure out what he meant exactly, but I have to admit that it made me think. Yet another bit of writing craft to learn.

It never ends!

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