Yes, I’ll freely admit this retreat post is a bit late. My apologize, I’ve been finishing so many books I’m falling behind! At the end of August, one of my amazing writer friends hosted a few others at her house to practice our craft, share pieces and generally have a good time. And oh did we ever.
We started with some prompts. I’m not going to share what I wrote, but the prompts are below. They were progressive and built on each other nicely.
- Describe an altercation (7 minutes)
- Re-write the scene from another point of view (ie switch from 1st to 3rd of vice versa) (7 minutes)
- Re-write it from another perspective. Maybe another character or an inanimate object (7)
I really liked doing this exercise because it helped me dive into the characters. I started with a little girl on her first day of Kindergarten reluctant to leave home. By the end, her parents are divorced and her paternal grandmother was sneaking her father into the house to see her and take her shopping. It got intense.
We did some critiquing, which I always love. I shared the second half of a story I’m working on. There was a lot of good feedback which is going to be hard to work in, but will make the story a lot better. It’s the next piece I want to start shopping around and I need to bite the bullet and get down to it!
As always, there were little tidbits of advice that are great to share. The first is for my fellow historical writers out there. The Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE) is a comprehensive set of slang and English variations across the United States and across time. Yeah. Wow. It’s super expensive but looks awesome. We all started looking for used copies. Another tidbit for any 20s writers, my history-buff friend John shared with me that in that time period, people used last names with each other unless they were very close friends. Coworkers would have addressed each other as Mr. So-and-so and Mr. Whats-his-name instead of Billy and Tommy. Huh.
Some other writerly advice for any genre. When most people draft, they tend to include a lot of backstory. Which is almost (hopefully) immediately edited out. This back story should only exist to inform the characters of what’s happened, not the reader. If your character lives in a world where trees are a main source of food, then he should start chowing down on some bark without explaining it to the reader. If an alien shows up on tree-planet, then it might need to be explained
Most writers have heard the Stephen King quote, “I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs, and I will shout it from the rooftops.” Try cutting all adverbs from a piece and reading it that way. If it doesn’t make sense, consider picking a stronger verb before you decide if the adverb should go back in.
That’s it for this month. I hope we can find some more gems to share with you all next time we meet.
Until next time, write on.