Sunday, April 14, 2013

Post Clarion Mini-Workshop

I'm on the train after attending a Clarion one-day workshop on character.

What I learned.

1. I write slowly. I think I am editing in my head too much. The remedy for this is to not use the backspace key and instead hit return and recast the sentence the way I want it. Then go back and revise. I was blown away with how much good content people created in short amount of time.

2. It's common for science-fiction and fantasy writers to be good at world-building and writing plots, but not so good at writing characters. Insert "'Tolkien's Women' Essay Joke" here.

3. My particular approach to writing characters is to draw a picture of them, what they're wearing, and any objects or tools they may be using in the story. And then sort of fine-tune the character depiction with an increasing number of approximations. I need to supplement this method with a concisely written set of character traits, character goals, and author goals for the character so I'm not staring at a picture--instead of writing--trying to divine the character as if it were a tarot card. It will help when I'm returning to a manuscript later.

4. Good characterization is layered. Add the layers during revision. The most common writer errors are defaulting to the writer's vocabulary and observations, and having a character observe things because the plot demands it. During revision look at how word choice, character observation, a character's interpretation of observations, and character's vocabulary reveal character on a word by word basis.

So.

Practice, practice, practice. Which means discipline going to bed early so I can have discipline getting up extra early to have solid, consistent blocks of writing time.
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