Mon 19 Oct 2009
Mid-September of this I spent a week in Banff, Alberta at The Banff Centre Fall Writing with Style Program* taking a workshop on “Historical Fiction” in preparation for an additional four weeks in Vermont to work on my novel. Faculty member Joan Clark, distinguished Canadian author of books for both adults and children facilitated our workshop. Here are a few of the points made by Joan that particularly resonate with me.
Process of Circling:
And I quote: “Circling is a process of writing to yourself about the impetus of the story, why it matters to you, what you want to do with it, what you hope to achieve. It is a process of backing off to help the writer—you—gain perspective on what preoccupies you fictionally, and prevent you from becoming locked into a structure too soon.”
Submitting too soon:
Paraphrase: A story needs to rest (did she say “like bread?”)
Revise. Revise. Revise.
Discipline to go deeper:
Paraphrase: Don’t keep your story on a level plane. Go deeper. Joan uses the visual of a straight line to represent a story, but suggests that a deep gorge occur somewhere along that line.
Paraphrase: Tension between the work and you helps to create tension between the reader and the work.
Why this story matters:
Paraphrase: A writer needs to ask herself why her story matters. It has to matter to the writer.
What some refer to as Truth:
More direct quoting: “Credibility in fiction is tricky and variable, subject to reader response as to what is ‘true’, ‘believable’ in a story, and what isn’t. Readers who pick up on familiar situations and human foibles in fiction are more apt to keep reading. Recognition is a dynamic factor in reading and writing fiction. The recognition factor aids credibility—what some refer to as truth.”
Paraphrase: The writer should be in control of the story and have the story clear in her mind. Readers want to feel they can trust the writer, that they are in good hands.
Paraphrase: Be prepared and willing to move things around in your story. Everything should serve the story rather than to convolute the story to accomodate an idea that no longer fits the story.
Paraphrase: Time challenges in writing in terms of shaping the story. How a writer handles time shapes structure. Be aware of the passing of time in relationship to the whole story, when it needs to be moment to moment and when it needs to jump.
“The secret life of the story:”
Paraphrase: The phrase above from John Gardener, but read A Passion for Narrative by Jack Hodgins for a meaningful discussion of this idea that when you start a story, you think it’s about one thing and usually it turns into something else.
*The Banff Centre’s Writing with Style Calendar with deadlines has not been posted as of this writing. If you are interested, please check the site often.