Monday, September 22, 2014

Charlie's Ramblings: Brisbane Writers Festival Part 3




  

Part 3


Saturday 6th September 2014
 Saturday was an interesting day.  For me it consisted of 4 panels/discussions with at least two Authors books I'd read and a number of new authors that had sounded interesting.

John Pickrell
Picture from Goodreads
  
Laini Taylor
Picture from Goodreads.
Robert Edeson
Picture from Goodreads















First up was Unnatural Creatures with Robert Edeson, John Pickrell and Laini Taylor.  I wasn't sure what I expected with these panels but it sure was interesting.

Just in case you didn't know these Authors.  John Pickrell has written Flying Dinosaurs and is the current Editor in Chief in National Geographic.  Laini Taylor is the Author of  Lips Touch and the Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy.  Robert Edeson is the author of Weaver Fish.  Unfortunately I hadn't read John Pickrell or Robert Edeson but it was good to see them talk about their books and answer the questions.

Unlike last year I actually took notes this year.  It's helped me remember things but it also is good to go back through and flesh out the short note like bullet points in my notebook.  Which I guess I'm doing here.  Plus while doing this I guess I'm researching some of the answers they had given eg. the figurehead that Laini talks about in one of the questions asked.

First question up was a good one.  What is your favourite natural and unnatural creature?

Laini: Natural - Parasite.  This particular parasite gets inside a fishes mouth, cuts off the circulation of its tongue until it drops off, and pretty much lives as the fishes tongue.  Apparently the fish lives a normal happy "tongueless" life.  I was fascinated and a little grossed out by this pick but thought it was still quite amazing none the less :)
            Unnatural - Figureheads from the trilogy Liveship Traders by Robin Hobb.  I did a little bit of reading and am not 100% certain as I haven't read the books but these figureheads come alive after three generations of the ship owners die.  Pretty awesome really!

Robert: Natural - Butterfly. Beautiful
              Unnatural - Unicorn because they are gentle, pure and he did mention about adopting a unicorn which I thought was pretty out there and funny because he said it with such conviction you could almost believe it :)  I'm sorry it he really DID adopt one.

John: Natural  - Feathered dinosaur Microraptor.
           Unnatural - Minotaur


Tell us about your books

Robert: It was mentioned that he wrote it for himself and described the book as action/thriller/crime story.  Woke up and his first chapter came to him, etc.

John: He was interested in dinosaurs as a kid.  He went to uni and became a journalist.. Learnt more than he had about dinosaurs.  Fossils in China - Impressive fine grained volcanic ash which preserved things and revealed fangs and features.

Laini: It was a bit spontaneous.  Was supposed to be doing something else.  She was struggling to try and write and then it came to her: Art student arguing with her father who wasn't human .. and a picture of ram horns.  The more she delved the more details arose eg. a Dealer in teeth - she wasn't sure at the time what the significance of teeth were etc.

What in the real world inspired the conceived ideas

Laini: Chimaera - Creating whole tribes out of disparate parts.

Robert: Weaver fish are a social fish, how they live in groups. We underestimate the intelligence of animals etc.

John:  There is a fictional element to that.  Went to living birds and how they lived to paint the fictional picture.  Look at the things like a griffin, dragon, cyclops.  It was easy to understand these mythological creatures when looking at the fossils.  The cyclops could have easily been an elephant because of the trunk not being present in the fossils giving off a cyclops look to the fossil (The words weren't exact to that but you get my gist.)

What is the truth?

Constructing the truth.  Extraordinary event.  Awakening to texts and phone calls of a global event.

Make it feel real.  Getting away with a lot in fiction.  We are jaded as humans.  What would you think?  If godzilla walked down the street.  What would it take for you to believe it is real.  The way movies are going these days with special effects and what not what would it take?

Dreams.  Inherent Dreams.

Robert: Dreams should be an object of scientific explanation.

Laini: Dreams of peace, better way of living .

Robert:  Dream and imagination - I actually missed what he said.

Scientific and Creative Writing.

Laini was quite fascinated by science but happy she didn't have to prove things.
Robert said the border between the two was paradigm.  Different constraints and different rules.
John had said there was an important role between the two.

It was an interesting chat!!  Hopefully I have deciphered my bullet points as accurately as I remember.

A Mad and Wonderful Thing by Mark Mulholland

Picture from
http://markmulholland.org/
This was an interesting discussion.  It was mostly of Mark talking about his book and relating to current issues of the world to the story of Johnny in A Mad and Wonderful Thing and how he dedicated his life to the revenge of the ten t
hat were lost in the hunger strike.  A story of why boys go to war.  Their Us vs them thinking.

The question pops up of "When is it right to kill?" Which the character ponders alot on.

Boys simplify things down into a box, when it's really not that simple.  He explains about Bob being the external imagination of Johnny. And the job as a writer to present a conflicting story.

Does the end justify the means?
Johnny sees religion as the reflection of man.  Traditional irish music is a big part of their culture (Celtic music) and how they relate to one another.

It was an interesting talk that he gave and I mostly sat back and listened more so than making notes.

Girt by David Hunt
Picture from Goodreads
I hadn't read his book Girt but went out and bought this one straight away.  He was a chirpy and friendly kind of guy.

He spoke of our history as wonderfully absurd.  I had to I had started reading some of Girt and he brings these characters more to life than any of the history lessons I'd ever been to could do.  I actually wanted to learn of Australian History.

I found this discussion quite entertaining and enjoyed ever bit of it!!



Running from Danger with James Phelan, Lauren Beukes and Peter Docker.

  
Peter Docker
Picture from Goodreads
    
James Phelan
Picture from his website
Lauren Beukes

I enjoyed listening to all three writers in Running from Danger.

Their books that they were promoting were as follows:
Sweet Ones by Peter Docker
Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes
The Spy by James Phelan

My notes are all over the place with this one so I hopefully can try and put them together as best I can.

One of the first things that jumps out when all three of the authors are talking is that Peter Docker was mentored by Tim Winton.  I'm not sure if this is a known fact but I still found this to be pretty awesome.
It's always cool to hear whether the author knows their endings or whether they plan to the end.  Both Lauren and James more or less plot and know their endings but Peter doesn't.  He says that he never knows his endings.  His writing style is write big and cut down.  Write from the gut.. from the heart and do the grammar and technical stuff later.  If it doesn't advance the plot or narration then it needs to go.
In other words too, it has to do something with the story or show something about the character.

James Phelan writes fast but edits slow.  It takes alot to make writing seem easy.

Lauren felt more comfortable writing third person for her book Broken Monsters, because it is close to the characters but can use more than one viewpoint of the scene.

Peter explains that most of the criticism of his book is from "white fellas"s not the aboriginal community.

This last one was a bit all over the place.  It was hard to really construct an easy readthrough of this so I've just put it down how I wrote it.

There was fair bit of interesting info in all the talks and I took away alot from each of the Authors I went to see.

Looking forward to Brisbane Writers Festival next year and what it will bring!






Sunday, September 14, 2014

Charlie's Ramblings: Brisbane Writers Festival 2014 Part 2




Part 2

Friday 5th September
Friday was a toss up as to whether I was going to catch the train in or not.  I wanted to be able to do some people watching but when I looked at the prices of the train tickets, opposed to the cost of parking, I figured it would be just as easy for me to drive.


Creative Methods by Laini Taylor (Author of Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy)
So the beginning of Creative Methods Laini had everyone introduce themselves and their hang up (if they had one) when it comes to writing.  Laini also mentioned that she was not a teacher but a writer, and this was all good since i was pretty excited to meet the face behind Karou's stories.

The other thing I liked about the Masterclass was that we got to hear some of Laini's troubles with her writing and how she got to where she was!

Once again the class was filled with many different people whose hangups ranged from not being able to finish stories to editing and getting published.

The question then popped up, "How do you write?"  There was mention of having a notebook for each story, whether you are a planner or a panther ("Pantser).

Everybody had their set style on how to do things.  Mine wasn't too different to one of the other guys who happened to complete his novel in NaNoWriMo which was pretty exciting.  At least with that you have a set amount of words that you need to achieve per day, and the end result hopefully is a novel.  Not to mention that it limits the editor in you going back and correcting things instead of writing.

Laini had wanted to write books for as far back as she could remember.  It was this thing that she was always wanted to do but never actually finished her first novel until she was 35.  I couldn't help but think, "Yes!  There's hope for me yet, since I've finished maybe one novel but have put this to the side because I need more practice."

So while she was procrastinating about writing she did a lot of other awesome things in between.  Editing other people's work and going to art school.  It never ceases to amaze me that that many writers are also very creative in other areas too.  It's crazy and cool!

We moved on to Processes.

It was then asked who in here writes a fast first draft and edits slowly.  It came up that Laini tended to edit as she went.

The big thing about processes are: Knowing your brain and getting it to do what you want it to do!

It's good to have goals.  That's one thing that NaNoWriMo teaches you.  To set and achieve goals every day and work towards the big goal, 50,000.  Also to keep going even when you want to go back and edit.

A good practice would be to keep an idea notebook and spend half an hour a day adding things into it.

One of the writing exercises was to write a list of "Things that light your mind on fire."  Come up with 50 - 100 things.  Good idea to stick at this for 30 minutes to let the mind get past the first ideas that pop up.  The list of things can be one word, paragraphs etc.  If anything jumps out at you for any reason go with it. Who knows what might come out of it.

Here were some that I had came up with on this exercise.  Just letting you know that this was the things that came up in my mind:

  • White noise
  • Bridges that move
  • Rain hitting tin roofs
  • Glitter/Sparkles
  • Talking Backpacks
We did some talking about the ideas that popped up then moved on to another exercise.  This time we had to think about "The kinds of stories you want to write".  Then write a list of book titles that would spark some interest, one of which I'm currently working on now.  Thanks to one of the other writers there, *Mia who helped me to iron out some crinkles and bounce ideas off.

That's one thing I absolutely recommend.  Have another writer or reader to bounce ideas off!  It makes fleshing out the story so much fun and give you ideas you otherwise may not have come up with straight away!

We then moved on to "Opening Lines".  We had to pick out of one of the titles and work on an opening line that would capture the reader.

Ideas + words = Create Magic.  

Laini also spoke of the Fictional Dream.  I'd never heard of the term but have been in that sort of state while reading a good book.

Fictional Dream is the state we enter into when we are absorbed in what we are reading.  The better the writing, the more fluid the dream.  Where the writing just disappears and just the story remains.  Where characters come alive and you put yourself into the scene.

To be able to create the fictional dream means you have nailed it.  I'd absolutely love to be talented with words and have this happen in my own writing.  

Laini also spoke about what plotting is, and that it is not set in stone.  If for instance your story is going off course to how you imagined but it seems to take the story to a better pathway, adjust your plot.  

Plotting is like standing outside a house but you're not going to know everything until you start writing the scene.


Free writing is the ultimate idea generator for me.  Thinking with your hand.  It's a wonderful way to come up with ideas.  I'm currently doing Sarah Selecky's Story Is A State of Mind and she is big on the Free writing too.  It is well worth it.

So that was wonderful three hours spent with some great writers and Laini Taylor.

I happened to google some brainstorming ideas that Laini had written about and came across the "Attic Notebook" which I really liked the sound of.

This is a freewriting exercise where you get a notebook and freewrite for about 30 minutes a day.  She explains that the key to doing this is not to reread what you have written,, just keep going without a glance backwards.  One you fill it with all sorts of writing, put aside for a month.  Then come back to it.  You will be amazed of the things that you have written and forgotten that you have.  I can't wait to try this!!

Hope you all enjoyed this.

Stay Tuned for Part 3 coming soon.

Charlie.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Charlie's Ramblings: Brisbane Writers Festival 2014 Part 1


www.bwf.org.au
So last week was the Brisbane Writers Festival.  It was pretty amazing.  I met some awesome people, not to mention being able to add a few more Authors into my To-Be-Read list.

I've decided to do this as a 3 Part Rambling as you will, as each posts will be quite long!!

Wednesday and Friday I was booked into Masterclasses: Pen to Paper and Creative Methods by Laini Taylor.  Both were awesome.  For some reason this year I decided to take loads of notes and I am happy that I have.  It definitely helps me remember everything that went on during the day.

On Saturday I was back again but this time it was for the Panels/Discussions.  First up I had Unnatural Creatures with Laini Taylor, John Pickrell and Robert Edeson, then onto A Mad and Wonderful Thing with Mark Mulholland, then Girt by David Hunt.  He really is a funny guy.  I'm happy to report that I am now reading his book among others and learning about Australian History, and ENJOYING it.  For the first time ever.  Then the last discussion for me was Running from Danger with James Phelan, Lauren Beukes and Peter Docker.  It was a pretty full on day.

I will share some of the things I took notes on a bit further down as well as things that I wrote down about some of the Authors answers to questions they were asked.  It was very fascinating!  And now that I've had a week to sit back and process, I can add my thoughts on this too.

Wednesday 3rd September


the "Venti" size hot cuppa in question lol
I was pretty stoked coming up to the first Masterclass of the Festival that I got there early.  Not early enough to walk over to Brisbane to visit Starbucks but early enough to look around the Library Shop and sneak in a selfie to try and win some prizes.  Later they added that it had to be creative, which mine wasn't.  But let's not post it here. lol

It was about half hour before I wanted to go in, and I guess I didn't really think it through but wanted a hot chocolate while we were doing the masterclass.  So I bought one.  I went to go enter the State Library, cuppa in hand and lo and behold the lovely "No Food and Drink" sign.  Of course.  I'm heading into a library. Doh!  And of course I had to get the largest available.

And I drank it. I did.  At $5.30 you would too.

So I wandered off to have a look around.

And this is what I seen:
 




 So as you can tell, it took a little bit to drink the chocolate.  But once I did, I was up in the lift and on the second level waiting with everyone else for the library, and the Queensland Writers Centre "Learning Centre" to open.

Masterclass: Pen To Paper

The one thing I'm always surprised (and I shouldn't be really) is the vast diversity of people that attend the masterclasses.  It's not just for young people or older people or people that look like they like to read. Some of these people I would never pick to love writing and how wrong would I be?  It's awesome!

So we all had to introduce ourselves, which I always dread.  I just hate the feeling of having all eyes on me, I almost think I'm going to stutter.  I KNOW my face will go red and no I won't be able to remember the last book I was reading because I've been put on the spot!!  So I went with The Messenger by Marcus Zusak which is one of those books I could pick up and read again and again (A rarity)
The good thing about this was that other people mentioned their last reads and one in particular: "This Book is Full of Spiders" had me interested.

So we did a number of exercises in class for things like Character and Setting, Viewpoint, Plot and Character, Context and Setting, Narrative Structure, Show Don't Tell and Conclusion.

I've been to a few masterclasses in previous years and the one thing I always like about some of them are the handouts that we get.  I feel like they help me to remember the things that we discussed in class etc.

So obviously they had these here!  Thumbs up!!

I'm going to include things here that I would want to come back later and reread, wherever I am. Things that I feel will be of use to myself and others as a writers.

The first exercise we did was a Character one.  The woman running the class handed out random photos and we were split up into groups of two or threes depending.  The first things we had to think of were:

Who is this?  What's happening?

We brainstormed as a group and came up with various ideas.  (This is what I love about masterclasses, LIKE MINDED PEOPLE) It was fun, and I couldn't help looking at the picture trying to see it as the other writers did.  We shared the things that we agreed on and then moved on to the second part.

What happens next?

You wouldn't believe the things we had planned for this couple in the photo, what they were about to do, their justifications etc.  It was crazy fun!

Objective - The key is to articulate intent!!

We moved on to the Character and Settings and spoke about  things like what compels a reader to keep reading.  Some bullet points I listed for this were:
  • Help the reader to relate to the story
  • Orient the reader in a coherent world
  • Opportunities of conflict
Then we moved on to a bit of brainstorming on what makes strong memorable characters.  Some of the things that popped up I wouldn't have thought of:
  • Resilient
  • Strength
  • Moral
  • Relatable
  • Flawed
  • Righteous
  • Conflicted
  • EVOLVING
I think the last one was completely important.  If you don't have a character evolving from the beginning of the novel to the end, you will feel like what was the point of the story to begin with if it doesn't push the protagonist to change in some way.

We moved on to Viewpoint.

So the best person to tell the story is the one with the most to lose.  The character that will give a bigger emotional response and one that the reader can empathise with.

So in other words, whose story is it?  Consider whether your character is the one that helps move the plot.  Or whether your character acts as a conduit.  Eg.  Harry Potter. We got the most out of watching him engaging with other characters.  - This is one that I'd never heard of before but I suppose they are right!


Plot and Character.

How does the event impact on the character?

We worked from a worksheet here and were introduced to three methods of Character Profile to get to know your character.  I find that I tend to do this once I'm a third into the story.  I'm a "panther" (Term that came out in one of the classes) or Pantser which means I don't know how it is going to end.  I have a few ideas of where I might like it to go but nothing set in stone.

As I said there were three methods (Bear in mind that there are more than three methods)

The first is The Interrogation.  Where you go very in depth with things like Basics, physical appearance, personality, possessions family aspirations and goals etc.

Up next is The Interview.  So in order to render these characters in 3d there are a number of questions to ask eg. What's your worst habit?  You discover that your boss is about to fire you.  What do you do?  Scenarios... that sort of thing.

Then there's Field Observation.  This works by doing an exercise that puts the character into a brief scene
where you can observe them.  Buying coffee, out for dinner etc.  You would then write down what happens in the scene not some observations about your character.  This I believe works better if you know everything there is to know about your character so you wouldn't rely on the first two methods.

The next section we looked at was Context and Setting.  This must have been more full on for me as I only have bullet points and tips really. For instance:

  • Too much description slows down the pace.
  • When describing setting, be specific, use sensory detail, engage with the environment.
  • Conflict and generating it - Restricted settings where they cant escape confines, etc.
Narrative Structure

This I was pretty interested in.  It discusses shape and the classic Beginning, middle and end arc. The Four part narrative - Intro, Complication, Climax and resolution.  I had drawings for these things and we discussed how using this would vary from each genre.

We also discussed within the Narrative structure and what examples of story could go into each section and what you could look at to focus on things and what you should think about when writing the Intro:

  • Must achieve certain things
  • Identify with what they want
  • Bit of socialisation
  • Goal
  • Suck the reader in
  • Magic - eg. very specific, establishing rules or even the most basic rules eg. in Harry Potter it is made clear in the beginning that magic was not to be done in front of muggles or to be done outside of Hogwarts while underage.
  • Establish a year.  You don't have to state it, but putting in a description or something along the lines to point when roughly the story is based does help the reader to imagine the story better.
  • Don't info dump etc.
  • Using a Hook: Plant a question and pique interest
The Complication should be the largest section of your book (in classic storytelling) and will include a string of setbacks and failures.  You probably should think ahead as to whether your character will or wont triumph.  

Climax: It's the highest point of tension.  Obstacles become fewer and fewer as you reach the climax.  Options are being lessened and running out of options. It can mean that all obstacles are overcome etc.

Resolution
It doesn't have to be long.  It should tie up loose ends and provide closure.  It could include a glimpse of the future.  Epilogue = glimpse of the future - if you planned on doing it that way...  It also doesn't have to be a happy ending!

Obviously if planning on more than one book eg. Trilogy, you wouldn't tie up all your loose ends.  Also with Trilogies/Series you can look at Book 1 as your Intro and part of the complication, Book 2 All Complication heading towards Book 3 which will have your Climax and resolution.

That was pretty much all the technicals laid out.  It helped clarify alot of things.  We then moved on to a quick discussion on show and tell and when to do which.

You don't always have to show but it can increase interest.  Also does it benefit the story by showing, or would it be better to tell.. these sorts of things.  Engage the senses.  Don't forget to tap into sound and smell. 

I'm not sure if I heard this in class but apparently hearing is one of the last things to go in a body whether you pass out or die.  I'm pretty sure I don't want to test that last theory, and quite frankly you wouldn't be able to prove whether this is right or not anyway.  

At the end of this there were some helpful tips as well.
  1. Keep a journal that you write in everyday.
  2. Celebrate small victories in your writing.
  3. Support eachother 
  4. Learn from books
  5. Keep Writing.
So that was the first Part in my 3 Part Ramblings. Hope you enjoyed it.  Look out for the next one soon.

Charlie