Saturday, June 22, 2013

Exhausted and exhilarated

Wow, what a WIFYR. The many participants and I have just come off an inspiring week. Carol Williams again brought in some topnotch people.

The theme, if there was one, was torture your characters. Agent Ammi-Joan Paquette conducted an afternoon session in which she said stories need strong antagonists. The more your main character has to go through, the stronger they will be, she advised. She said to make it hard on your protagonist. You are not their mother; you are the evil overlord.

My workshop instructor is the amazing Ann Cannon. This local writer (and weekly Salt Lake Tribune columnist) has published in PB, chapter books, MG, and YA. She has a gift as a teacher, as well. Ann offered numerous tidbits and insights and she agreed with character tormenting. She suggested brainstorming obstacles for the MC to overcome. You need to get them to a point where it appears hopeless. You have to torture your characters.

Critique is the heart of the workshops at WIFYR. It can be an unsettling thing, throwing your work out there, to be picked apart. That especially is true when doing so with strangers. Ann smoothed our little group through the process, first by offering tips, then by sitting back and letting us do the bulk of the critiquing. She had the last word with each critique, expertly pointing out what we may have missed.

My fellow writers were impressive. Their observations were keen and their criticisms were offered with honesty and kindness. And they can write. The skill and variety of writing in our group was amazing. We went everywhere from New Zealand to China to a place by the sun, from Victorian England to Nazi Germany and home again to modern day. Our characters dealt with everything from voices in their heads to panda snot. They had crazy mothers, were sold off by their parents and saw bugs crawling out of hair and blue butterflies circling heads. They were stuck in a parking lot in their underpants. Oh, we tortured them, all right. By week’s end both characters and writers were stronger.

Martine Leavitt said it best at the conference end. The week was exhausting and exhilarating. 

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