My local authors group, VIRA, held their monthly meeting on Saturday. It was great to mingle with so many talented women. The sharing of information, achievements, heartaches and life events during our “accolades” time is truly inspiring. For many, that would be enough, but we had a workshop as well, presented by Susan Lyons (w/a Savanah Fox, Susan Fox.)
Susan had asked the group beforehand what they’d like to work on. The response was huge and wide-ranging. I wondered how she’d by able to turn all the varied suggestions into a cohesive workshop. But Susan is a very organized person. She took everyone’s pet problem and lumped it into the challenge of conflict.
Makes sense doesn’t it? If you’re trying to develop a plot, external conflict is essential. If you want to create memorable characters, they need internal conflict. If you want emotional intensity for the reader, it starts with conflict. If you have a sagging middle, turn up the conflict. Nearly all the difficulties writers encounter in creating a great story, can be addressed through conflict — or struggle, if you prefer that word.
Once she’d laid out the basics of conflict, Susan divided us into small groups – very small, three—and let us brainstorm. Using Deb Dixon’s formula of Goal/Motivation/Conflict, we talked about character, theme and plot in our work-in-progress.
I’m a little nervous of these types of exercises. Either I have nothing to say because I cannot create on the spot, or I’m afraid that my work is too new to withstand the scrutiny of other opinions. When I start a story, it’s a bit like digging a well. When the first trickle of water appears, I must be very careful not to damage the water table or the geology of the site. One mistake and the water disappears. It can be the same with story. One criticism, one chance remark, and the “idea”, instead of developing, vanishes.
In my little group we had one story nearly finished, one that was well-started and mine, which is still a glimmer.
When the session ended, Susan was enthusiastically thanked. Everyone in the room had learned something, either about the story she was working on now, or one she might tackle in the future. Despite my misgivings about “crowd-sourcing” my story, I got some good ideas and no damage occurred. A very successful afternoon.
What about you?
As a writer, do you like to talk about your project from the first inkling or do you prefer to have the story down on paper before you share?
As a reader, do you like to see work in progress, or do you want the author to give you only the finished and polished version?