Difference between revisions of "Preparatory Workshop - Todd Hogan - 2014-10-11"

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If that name were a character in one of the books of one of your favorite authors, how would that author describe you?
If that name were a character in one of the books of one of your favorite authors, how would that author describe you?
*My answer*:
''My answer'':
::''Tim stood by the controls of the ship, his shoulders tight with stress. Where would he bring them? Where could he take them, the sleeping colonists, now that their destination planet had been destroyed?''
::''Tim stood by the controls of the ship, his shoulders tight with stress. Where would he bring them? Where could he take them, the sleeping colonists, now that their destination planet had been destroyed?''

Revision as of 19:43, 11 October 2014

FICTION IMPROV - Preparation for NaNoWriMo November 2014


  • Todd Hogan
  • Member of the Writing Journey, a group that gets together at least once a month.
  • This is the third of four preparatory workshops in preparation for NaNoWriMo. The next is next Saturday; Jen Moore is presenting it.
  • Last year, gave a presentation on how to manage your time and attitude (so you don't give up)--that presentation is online at naperwrimo.org/prep

Authors: growing up reading

Difference between an author and a writer

  • writers enjoy writing and are writing
  • author is someone who is published (and may have stopped writing)

Exercise: list three favorite authors

  • Jim Butcher - great characters; driving pace of novels--books suck you into them
  • David Brin - optimistic future
  • Roger Zelazny - poetic soul; great concepts
  • Allistair McLain - no longer in print in the US. Thrillers, A Hundred Must Reads: greater than life heroes who achieve the seemingly impossible against big odds. Wrote the Guns of Navarone (a group of guys who had to go to an island to blow up two big guns).
  • Brian Sanderson - great world building; well planned stories with great twists.
  • Harlan Coben - interesting characters; action
  • Dan Brown - history; fact-filled information
  • Gillian Flynn - novels are being brought to a movie
  • Terry Brooks (fantasy) - most known for the Shannara series. Created a huge world; more than 20 books in the series covering thousands of years.
  • Agatha Christie - queen of crime--great style and hard to guess at the ending
  • Reginald Hill - series of mysteries - started out writing standard mysteries but over time his characters have developed (stories are deeper, darker and richer)

Add your name to the bottom of your list.

How do you want your first novel to portray you?

If that name were a character in one of the books of one of your favorite authors, how would that author describe you?

My answer:

Tim stood by the controls of the ship, his shoulders tight with stress. Where would he bring them? Where could he take them, the sleeping colonists, now that their destination planet had been destroyed?

Character: Who might you be?

  • John Steinbeck: “And, of course, people are only interested in themselves. If a story is not about the hearer he will not listen. And I here make a rule- a great and lasting story is about everyone or it will not last. The strange and foreign is not interesting- only the deeply personal and familiar.”
  • Milan Kundera (author of the Unbearable Lightness of Being): “The characters in my novels are my own unrealized possibilities. That is why I am equally fond of them all and equally horrified by them. Each one has crossed a border that I myself have cirumvented. It is that crossed border (the border beyond which my own "I" ends) which attracts me most. For beyond that border begins the secret the novel asks about. The novel is not the author's confession; it is an investigation of human life in the trap the world has become. But enough. Let us return to Tomas.”
    • Characters cross the border beyond which I cannot go. Beyond that border is the secret that the novel asks about. Cross those borders. It is a way of getting out of a rut. Look at the edges, the far sides represent a way to go beyond. rut -> TrutH
  • Milan Kundera: “... characters are not born like people, of woman; they are born of a situation, a sentence, a metaphor containing in a nutshell a basic human possibility that the author thinks no one else has discovered or said something essential about.”
    • There maybe something you have to learn or discover.

How are stories created?

How do stories come about? How do you get the ideas?

  • Eileen: was recently in France in a wine cellar; someone said a body could be down there (miles of tunnels) and no one would know about it. So I will be writing a murder mystery in that setting.
  • Tim: Dreams; concepts authors bring up but don't go along far enough in.
  • Anna: Personal experience; tribute to a friend of mine who moved away--a what if
  • Dan: Some characters are based on real people I know, especially some of the antagonists
  • Jennifer: In middle school, learning about POV, what about 2nd person POV? I was told you can't do that, so that is what I'm doing.
  • Mathematical viewpoint: Albert Einstein: “Every one who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the Universe-a spirit vastly superior to that of man, and one in the face of which we with our modest powers must feel humble.”
  • One mathematician: more often than not, you realize that your initial idea was wrong and you have to try something else; these are the moments of despair when you think you've wasted time. But you can never get up. You go back to the drawing board, come up with a better idea, analyze your mistakes--and suddenly your idea starts to work. It's as if you were spending a fruitless day surfing and suddenly you catch a wave. You have to free your imagination and let the wave take you as far as you can. Love and Math, Edward Frenkel

An objective reality: perceive and describe

  • mathematical concepts form an objective reality of their own that we cannot change but only perceive and describe. Some authors say that an idea just comes to them and they just wrote it down. What if the book you want to write is out there, just waiting for you to come to it, understand it and write it down? Even the Supreme Court recognizes that a mathematical formula or scientific truth cannot be patented. A principle is a fundamental truth.

Heinrich Hertz

  • Mathematical formulas have an independent existence and intelligence of their own; they are wiser than their discoverers.
  • Maybe your story has truths that you have to come to understand. Does it have an intelligence beyond what you bring to it? If this was the way novels were found, what would you change?
  • Listen to what your characters are saying to you.
  • Characters want to be in a situation or not; so let them talk to you.
  • It is like sculptors working with marble, trying to find their sculpture
  • Sometimes you have to delete what you've written because your story is going in a direction you know is wrong. You can tell something is wrong when it is harder than it should be.
  • Knowing the ending helps you aim at it; but if you're writing a mystery, you can have a few endings and leave it open and see the characters grow. The ending might then surprise me.

Edward Frenkel

The ability to see patterns and connections that no one has seen before doesn't come easily. It is usually the product of months if not years of work. At first you don't believe it yourself; but then you say, "What if it is true."

Writing fiction

  • Fiction is not necessarily true but it is probably more true than other things we otherwise read.
  • Why is truth so important when we're writing?
  • John Steinbeck: "No story has power, nor will it last, unless we feel in ourselves that it is true and true of us."

Johann Wolfgang Von Geothe

  • Mathematicians are like Frenchmen; whatever you say to them, they translate to their own language and henceforth it is suddenly different.
  • E.g., surfing gets reduced to stick figure diagrams
  • In seeking the truth, sometimes we don't like what we find--but that is part of writing too--pushing the edges of boundaries.

True Things

  • I was a trial lawyer--if you tell a lie, it is a bad thing. Then, suddenly, I discovered that there are some people who think that it is a good thing to lie. So think in your own lives: what are things you believe to be true, that you know it happens, even if you can't explain it. You base a lot of your life in these things.

Exercise: Three things you think are true

My answers:

  • People are mostly good; you just have to reach past their defensive boundaries to see what they care about.
  • The glass is half full: there will be a happy ending, if not a perfect one.
  • The best is yet to come.

Exercise: Create another character, a shadow character

  • Someone who believes the opposite of what you believe in. What would that character's goal be? What would that character try to achieve?

My answers:

  • People are mostly evil and self-serving
  • The glass is half empty
  • The best was long ago
  • The characters would be ultra conservatives who try to preserve the status quo
  • Shadow characters can have more depth
  • Shadow characters can be flat and cold
  • One character wants to get on the good side of whoever was in power, regardless of their viewpoints. They believe that happiness is the product of luck; brute force is power; there is no such thing as good or evil.
  • Believe in Choice, responsibility, consequences; opposite: believe in fate: goal: live by a prophecy.
  • Core values: independence/capability; shadow character is worrisome, dependent and afraid. I hate her.
  • A character can be unlikable but still be a good character. It is more important that a character have depth than they be likable.
  • You want characters that evoke a strong emotional response; the opposite of love isn't hate, it's indifference.

Paul McCartney to Jared Leto

  • "You know what? Just write. Show up every day and write something. And keep writing. Even when you think you don't have something to say, just do it. And wonderful things will happen."

Writing & Passion

  • "When you write you connect your mind and your body with your dreams and your passion is fed." - Michele Phillips (a self-help coach)
  • Give life to your dreams through your writing.

Tina Fey's Rules for Improv

  • Agree (if your partner says something, you have to take it as truth)
  • Not only say "yes"... say "Yes, AND, ..." (contribute something original)
  • Make statements (go forward from this point)
  • There are no mistakes, ... only opportunities (for the character to take it one step further)

Don't criticize or critique but start the sentences with "I like" or "I wish" (a bit gentler--keep it positive)

Last exercise (Improv Exercise)

Write one great sentence, something that moves you, that you really like

My answers:

  • And, ever after, wherever she walked, she left her footprints in blood.
  • I wish I could be the man my father was, full of ambition yet humble, strongly opinionated yet well liked and respected, and a figure of strength and courage.
    • However, I was not that man; I was lacking ambition and not well enough known by anyone to be liked or respected and had no known strength of character.
      • This gnawed at me for years until the day I finally cracked and gave in to my despair.
        • I crawled into a corner and never left, at least not mentally or emotionally.
  • "Stop!" the clown shouted, running forward awkwardly with his big, floppy red shoes. "The pie is a bomb!"

Part II

Pass the sentence to your partner and have them write their next one.

My answers:

  • He didn't wake up this way.
    • In his mind, he woke up the way he always looked; but when his girlfriend turned over and saw him, she screamed until her throat was raw.
      • It was like she saw a strange monster rather than the man she loved. - Or at least that was what he thought after he opened his mandibles and bit her head off.


  • This exercise is interesting because you can see the directions your story might take in someone else's hands--if you're stuck, you can ask someone else to give you advice.
  • Every day that you write, you finish up and write the next day; the first thing you want to do is revise what you wrote the day before. But you should think ... AND and just go forward. You're trying to get to 50,000 words. Accept what you've written, don't go back to rewrite what you've written before. There is time for editing later. Worry about that in December.
  • Interesting to see how he took my idea. Really cool.
  • It was easier to work with sentences that start with characters than ones that start with descriptions.
  • One example was written as if it were an extract of Arrogance and audacity

Writing alone

  • You can get support in the Journey. Many people like to write with other people around.
  • Some people like the quiet and the time alone to recharge their batteries. There is a great TED talk by Susan Cain about the power of introversion. She wrote a book called Quiet. Sometimes one person working alone can accomplish great things.
  • How to be alone? I had never stared at the details of writing a story.
  • Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known -- Carl Sagan
    • it is up to you to bring it to reality.

The book of laughter and forgetting, Milan Candera

  • Everyone bears an entire writer within them.
  • Everyone is pained by the thought of disappearing, unheard and unseen into an indifferent universe.
  • Edward Frenkel The moment of revelation; you haven't reached the summit, but its allure is irresistable and you imagine yourself at its top. It's yours to conquer--do you have the strength and stamina to conquer it?

NaNoWriMo basics

Creative people aren't afraid to try things, to possibly look silly, to make mistakes, to fail. So creative people do more things; and the odds are that they are going to win. NaNoWriMo is a great opportunity to try things. At the end of those thirty days, you will have something to work with. Even if you later throw it out completely, it was something you had to try.

Isaiah 43:18-19

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!