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Gotye’s song Somebody That I Used to Know has blown up. I have a theory about why.
The lyrics harken back to the origins of songs as tools of storytelling. This song gives us clear insight into the male and female characters. We learn about their relationship. How it collapsed. Their takes on what went wrong and the fallout.
I can see the events play out in my mind when I hear this song.
And therein lies the brilliance. Music as a form of storytelling. I feel like I read a short story when I read the lyrics.
Such clear character development and plot. There is a beginning, a middle and an end to their story.
What do you think? Am I on to something? Or is it something else?
The Writer’s Digest Conference had many mind stretching, craft expanding panels. I wish I could blog about each one, but I’d rather select three to share. And the awesome Emmie Mears has graciously agreed to Guest post about a panel as well.
That should satiate your conference interests without inundating you with info.
I loved Donald Maass’s panel on Writing The 21st Century Novel.
Brimming with brilliant insight.
He talked about how commercial fiction dominated the New York Times Bestsellers list in the 1970s and 1980s, but in the 1990s things began to change. Fantasy and literary fiction began to take a place on that venerable list.
He believes now in the 21st century there is another shift occurring.
Curious, he started to research these changes. He found there was a decrease in straight genre fiction and an increase in cross genre fiction.
In fact, cross genre books were selling better than straight genre fiction. These hybrids were fiction that read like literary fiction but were genre fiction.
He came to this conclusion: In the 21st century, the genre concept will slowly die and go away. It will be replaced with high impact fiction, which marries great story telling with beautiful writing.
This means that commercial and literary writers each have something to learn from each other. The story must meld the two types so that it effects the reader and reaches people in a powerful way.
Mr. Maass then led us through an exercise to help make our stories more high impact. He has a book coming out to help writers do this at home too. I’ll definitely be purchasing it.
His main point with these exercises was to engage the reader emotionally. I have to admit it worked. I made three revisions to my finished manuscript this weekend because of his workshop. And they all improved the readers emotional experience.
One prompt he posed to the audience was: Write down the hardest thing your protagonist has to do in the course of the story. Now work out why the character has sworn never to do or do it again.
He wants writers to construct powerful protagonists, 3-D secondary characters, and make the book plot driven but beautifully written.
He has several workshops this year that are worth attending.
Thanks WDC for a killer first day workshop panel!
Lately, I watch tv and movies through the lenses of a writer. I can’t seem to stop. Unbelievable characters, confusing plots, slow pacing, and uninteresting protagonists are my biggest turn-offs.
So when I catch something I like, I think about it. Every Harry Potter book and movie has been a good experience for me.
With the movie, there were a few hiccups where they diverged from the book and the story lost something, but overall I liked it.
The movie sucked me in 95% of the time. Here’s why:
- Great actors making the characters come to life and feel believable.
- Strong plot with good pacing.
- Tension throughout and more of an edge (which seemed to appear in the later Potter movies).
- Clear POV. No head hopping or uncertainty over whose narrating.
- Great secondary characters–most quirky, some lovable, and some despicable. But all eliciting a response from me.
- Cause and effect follow through. Things flow from each other and the past books flow into this one seamlessly.
What were your favorite things about the Harry Potter movie? Any that might also be characteristics of a great novel?
This is my dog, Emerson. I can tell you great stories with amazing plots about Emerson, but right now are you interested?
Maybe slightly but not really. I mean he’s cute but why listen to a story about him? Why care?
What if I mentioned that he is a warrior lapdog who sleeps facing the door and guards me while I shower? Kinda interesting quirks.
How about if I tell you he snores and makes noises like a little old man all night?
Or that if you miss his breakfast time, he will sit in bed groaning and staring at you until you wake up and feed him?
Okay now you’ve got a character sketch. He’s a quirky dog who clearly thinks he’s human. Do you like him or at least feel some reaction to him?
Now would you listen to a story about him? Even if I meander off course slightly–you might give me some leeway. (Although I’ll try my best not to)
Why? Because you’re interested in my main character. You’re wondering what he might do.
Emerson, realizing he was dealing with yet another flawed human, sat patiently in the middle of the kitchen–right in Dad’s way as he made himself a sandwich. Emerson glanced at Dad, then the cabinet where his food was and finally at his food bowl. He repeated this eye movement a dozen or so times until Dad got the message and opened the cabinet to find his food and feed him.
Not the most interesting story, but you listened right? Why? Is it because the character sparked your interest?
What do you think? Do you show enough of your character to intrigue the reader early on? What’s your experience with developing characters in your story?
In our first week of my online class, we learned to draft a 500-word plot summary of our novels. I’d already written my mystery novel, so this was a post drafting summary. But while researching what makes a good synopsis, I stumbled on a lot of advice about writing the synopsis before the story.
This sounded interesting and since I have a new novel I’m working on–total Kismet. That story stalled once because I didn’t know where I was going. I hate when I don’t know what the next scene is. I froze up and worked on editing the other book instead.
Anyway, so I sat down and plotted out the story in 2 pages. Entire story. Done. Mind you OL played a huge part in story storming with me. It’s our version of brain storming where he asks questions or makes comments and bam I’ve suddenly plotted out a book in 30 minutes.
Anyway, since drafting the synopsis, I’ve been on a roll. I’ve written 5 new scenes this week alone. And it’s so much easier to know what comes next. Writing really is trial and error. I’ve learned so much from mistakes. I’d never take them back. But yeesh, it’s a tough journey sometimes.