Notes From LDStorymakers Conference

I had an amazing time attending the 10th annual LDStorymakers Conference this year, wandering around amongst fellow writers, talking shop talk, and attending very well-put-together classes. And the icing on the cake was when I got The Maze Runner author James Dashner’s autograph for my son, who happens to be reading that book right now and was pretty thrilled to get that.

Here’s a summary of the classes I attended. In this post, I will cover the ones having to do with the writer’s craft. In my next post I’ll address the book industry classes I attended.

First was Scene & Sequel where we learned about reader contracts. That’s the contract we have with our readers to deliver what they are expecting from us. We dissected the parts which make up scenes, i.e., the goal, the conflict, and the disaster (which isn’t necessarily as violent as it sounds. It’s just the thing that goes wrong so that the main character in the scene doesn’t meet his goal.) Then we learned about the parts of the sequels. (The term ‘sequel’ confused me at first. The name I learned these by is ‘interludes’.) Whatever you prefer to call them, the parts are: the reaction (of the character to the disaster just experienced in the previous scene), thought, decision, and action, which leads the character into the next scene.

The teacher talked about the pacing of novels being affected by the genre and the target audience, and how sometimes those scene and sequel parts can get put into a different order. Good information, but I couldn’t help but think we were splitting hairs a bit. Based on the examples given, I wondered if we were fitting the books to the plan or the plan to the books. My take is, get all the training and practice you can, then trust your subconscious. It knows what it’s doing! Indeed, one thing I heard repeated in several classes was breaking the rules can be a good thing, as long as you learn the rules first so you know how to break them properly.

In Loud & Clear: Finding Your Voice, we learned that there are three things publishers look at: voice, writing, and plot, and depending on which genre you’re writing in, any one of those can come to the forefront. Some elements that make up your unique writing voice include character, the narrator, point of view, monologue & dialogue, and description.

In Coloring Outside the Lines (basically a class about the aforementioned rule-breaking), we talked about genre bending. One thing that stood out to me was the advice that, if someone is shopping in a particular section of the bookstore that is their favorite, and they find your book in it and buy it, would they be disappointed because it wasn’t really the kind of book they usually buy?

In the Point of View class, we discussed that, it isn’t just a matter of deciding between first and third person point of view. In third person alone, there are many options, omniscient, multiple, distant, and close, with close being pretty interchangeable with first person as far as how deeply you penetrate the character’s mind. Great stuff there!

More coming tomorrow.

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