Elizabeth: The Power of Silence

As I mentioned in last Friday’s post, I spent the past week at a big, high-level series of events for my Day Job.  There were many speakers, with styles as varied as the topics they spoke on; most of which I’ve already forgotten.

One of the speakers, however, really caught and held my attention.  It wasn’t because of his subject matter (my team had prepared some of his talking-points); it was how he connected with the audience and kept their attention focused.  He wasn’t giving a speech as much as he was telling a story, and like any good storyteller, he made sure his audience was with him every step of the way.

Unlike some of the other speakers, who seemed to be trying to fit as much material into their allotted time as possible, this speaker was rather sparse with his words.  His style made me think about dropping pebbles in a lake.  If you throw in a bunch of pebbles all at once, all you really get is a big splash, but one at a time, you can see the individual ripples slowly echo and then die away.  The speech was a series of pebbles, slowly dropped into still waters, with the occasional invitation to the audience to laugh along at a comment or observation.  The periods of quiet both gave weight to the points that were made and provided the time for them to sink in and resonate. Continue reading

Michaeline: Start with the Windows

A view of the gardens and fountains from the music pavilion out the French doors. Many windows.

Music or books . . . who starts with the windows? And who starts with the basement? (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

It’s a new month and a fresh start! I’m still playing around more on my ukulele than I am writing, but writing is always somewhere on my mind. I was goofing around on a jazz blog, and stumbled upon a post where the blogger talks about composing a song. He says:

1. Decide what kind of tune you are aiming for.
2. Choose a structure and a key.
3. Work out a chord progression on which to build. (You might prefer to start by inventing a melody, but for me that would seem like building a house by putting in the windows before laying the foundations.)

Well, I have to tell you, those three tips stopped me in my tracks. I ALWAYS start with the windows! That is to say, I’ve got a character, and I flail around for a conflict or inciting incident, and that naturally leads to another character in opposition to the first.

I figure I can stick the genre on later, and my structures feel organic – they feel like they grow straight from the character.

But then again, I wonder Continue reading

Elizabeth: The Call to Action

call_to_actionAs writers, we’re taught that a story rightfully begins with an inciting incident; an event that changes something for our hero/heroine, throwing them off their traditional path and setting everything in motion.   It can be as simple as meeting a cute guy in the bar, the death of a family member, or being transferred to a new job, or more complex, like being transported into a whole new world.  Typically, the inciting incident is something that happens to the hero/heroine, rather than something they actively do.

Simply put, before the inciting incident there is equilibrium.  Afterwards, the balance has been upset and there is a problem to be solved. Continue reading

Jilly: Cut and Paste

Cut and PasteHappy Fourth of July tomorrow to the other Ladies, and to all American readers of 8LW!

I’d love a day or two of picnics and fireworks, but what with the constitutional upheavals over here, the incessant rain, and the many things I still have to accomplish before I leave for RWA Nationals, my fun will have to wait until I get to California.

This week’s writing task was to nail the Dreaded Synopsis for my romantic fantasy WIP. Or rather, a couple of synopses, since I needed a 500-word version and another that could be up to ten double-spaced pages. Synopsis writing is a necessary evil that sucks the creative life out of me, which is why I’ve been putting it off.

Continue reading

Nancy: Justified Part 4: The Lessons

Justified_2010_IntertitleOver the past month, I’ve blogged about one of my now-favorite TV series, the FX channel’s Justified. My husband and I started watching the series as part of our binge-watching approach to television because it had been recommended to us by a few different people whose TV and movie viewing tastes are similar to ours. I started rewatching episodes to deconstruct and analyze the writing because, from the very beginning, the approach to story writing resonated with me. Then I started discussing the writing elements with my husband who, though not a writer, is a good sport and enjoys talking story with me…to a point. Once I’d passed that point (identified by the way his eyes glazed over), I knew it was time to bring the discussion here and share it with other writers.

But I also knew my writer brain wasn’t just connecting with the story for the pure enjoyment of it. It was figuring out how I could use the story lessons in my own work. This week, I read over those last three posts, each of which focused on a writing lesson the series had reinforced for me, and considered how I’m using those lessons to improve my own WIP.

Lesson One: Open Strong

This is not new or earth-shattering advice. It’s not something that I or most writers I know willfully eschew. But it is something that’s so easy to inadvertently fall short of achieving. Continue reading

Michaeline: Summer Ghibli Film Festival

A giant old tree that resembles Totoro.

A narrative can take surprising shapes and forms. Tree of Totoro, by contri via wikimedia commons.

It’s week three of summer vacation here in northern Japan, and my daughter decided to remedy a terrible gap in her education by renting 10 Ghibli DVDs last week. Ghibli is a world-famous animation studio, and you may know their films – Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro  and Kiki’s Delivery Service are just a few of the internationally released full-length features.

I’m trying to figure out what structures underlie the films. Continue reading

Elizabeth: What Hockey Taught me about Story

Conflict in action

Conflict in action

Last night, while watching my local hockey team battling for a play-off win that would allow them to advance to the next level of competition, I couldn’t help but see correlations between the game and story structure.

In hockey, the basic goal of each team is pretty simple: score more points than the opposing team by the end of sixty-minutes of play. A conflict box shows a strong conflict lock, with the offence of each team neatly blocking (hopefully) the defenses of the other. Continue reading