Conflux 11 – Are You Attending?

Conflux 11Conflux this year is set to be amazing – four full days of convention goodness designed for writers of all levels of experience.

Karen, Leife and the Committee have done an amazing job of organising events, panels, workshops, and guests, not to mention wrangling a ridiculous number of people to help out on panels, administrative duties, volunteering, and organising specific areas like the dealer’s room.

If you haven’t been to a Conflux convention before, you’re in for a treat.

For my part, I’m sitting on a bunch of panels on the Saturday and one more on the Monday, as well as running two workshops.

About the workshops:

Creating Compelling Characters

This workshop will run at 1pm on Friday 2 October. Come along for an exciting two-hours that will take you well beyond simple character descriptions and backstories.

Here’s what its about:

Readers have certain expectations that go far beyond genre, beginning with characters they want to spend time with.

Creating Compelling Characters will give you the essential hands-on toolkit to ensure your readers care about what happens to your characters, even the ones they hate.

Through practical exercises and group activities you’ll learn how transform ‘boring’ or even ‘interesting’ characters into ‘absolutely compelling’ individuals.

You’ll gain a clear understanding of how to:

  • apply simple techniques to ensure your characters come across as real, riveting, and engaging people
  • exceed reader expectations through drama and conflict
  • draw readers into an intense emotional experience they’ll be desperate to share with their friends.

The workshop will leave with the keys to making your characters resonate with the people who matter the most – your readers – and to keep them thinking about your story long after they’ve read the last word.

Polishing Your Pitch

My second workshop runs on the Saturday at 2.30pm, and is designed to help you get from nervously wondering what to say to an agent or editor, to a polished pitch designed to intrigue and tempt them into asking for your manuscript.

There are some really simple techniques that will help you do this, the most basic being able to concisely and coherently deliver the essentials of what your novel’s about.

This workshop will help you:

  • create an elegant and informative overview of your story
  • get over any nerves
  • ensure you walk away with the best outcome possible – a request to read your manuscript.

You can find all the details and booking information on the Conflux Website.

Volunteer for Conflux

Register for either of my workshops (or any others)

Attend Conflux (includes all workshops and panels etc)

Are you attending? If so, look me up. I’m always ready for a coffee!

Character Wants and Needs – my guest post on Nascent Novels

Guest PostI have a guest post over on Nascent Novels. A huge thanks to Orlando Sanchez for the invite. Orlando has finished his first novel and is currently working on three other projects!

Please take the time to check it out along with Orlando’s other posts: Character Needs and Wants.

Things I wish I knew about creating characters when I started writing

Text: Things I wish I knew about creating characters when I started writing.What is it you wish you knew about creating characters when you started writing?

If you could go back in time and give your younger self some advice on the topic, what would you say?

I’d tell myself to figure out what my characters want, what they need, and to understand the difference, but that’s just a tiny part of creating characters.

Here’s some more fantastic responses to that question.

“A good character is someone who wants something and a good story is about what’s stopping them from getting it.” Dave Versace

“Don’t let your characters take your story over.” Mark Mercieca

“Don’t be afraid of letting part of yourself show up in your characters.” Glendon Perkins

“Characters are people to. They see, feel, smell, taste, hear and have emotions.” Roland Boykin

“Develop a background story for your characters. Even if you never use any of the information in your book, it’s there to help flesh out your character and will help make your characters seem real in the way they act and react to situations.” Chris Mentzer

“Your characters know themselves much better than you. You can get to know them by speaking with them, but they’ll still know better than you. They’ll do what they want. What? The hands are yours, you type up the story? Illusions, my dear.” Era Metko

“No plot survives contact with the characters.” David Friedman

“Creating a character is like digging for treasure, opening the bejeweled chest buried six feet under and seeing it holds a doorway to a secret mine of wonders right next to a sewer.” Charles Murray

“When I try to impose my own ideas on the characters without listening to them? Disaster. The story stalls out and I have to re-write, every time.” Kyra Halland

“Every character needs a goal – whether a grand life goal or just a goal for two seconds in that scene. Characters who want something are more interesting, even without dialogue. They will be proactive rather than reactive.” Madison Dusome

“We don’t create the characters; we ask and they come to us. We then wrestle them into the story and compromise when necessary.” Catherine Green

“Don’t waste too much time filling out the character description, let them come to life on the page. The character will let you know what they like or dislike.” Chantelle Griffin

“There will be moments when your characters come to life, and feel more alive than ‘real life’ people. Choosing who to spend your time with will be difficult – balance is important.” Karen Wyld

Great advice, huh? What’s your best advice on creating characters?

If you liked this post, check out some of the other posts in the “Things I Wish I Knew About” series: Author PromotionPoint Of View, Critiquing, Dealing With Rejection, Editing Your Own Work, Short StoriesStory Development, Worldbuilding and Writing.

The Story and the Plot

SwordsIf you’ve been following me in any of the circles I tend to move in, you might know I’m writing a novel about a blind swordswoman, and possibly that I’m struggling with it.

It’s set in the same world as my epic fantasy, but in an earlier time and in a different kingdom.

The plot is simple: it’s about her mastering a sword of power and defeating the ruling Warlord. Think Gladiator meets almost any Chinese martial arts movie in an historical setting, and you’ve probably got it.

Her story, however, is entirely different, and this is what I’m struggling with.

Any reluctant hero could fulfil the plot, but to give it emotional impact, the plot has to become just as personal as the things she cares about. They need to intersect.

What she cares about is her father, the local villagers, and the slave girl her father rescued a few years back.

She also has a bit of a chip on her shoulder. She’s blind, but determined not to let it hold her back.

She’s fought for years to become self-sufficient, to develop her skills with the blade, and to be able to look after herself without help. What she fears most is having that freedom taken away.

Her story, then, has to about protecting the people she cares about while fighting for freedom.

Therefore, to create a novel, the plot and everything she cares about need to come into conflict.

The question is, what’s the best way to do this? I’ve got a bunch of ideas on where I want it to go, but the beginning is really stumping me.

How do I set it up so all this comes through, without looking like I’m trying to set up anything?

If you’ve got any thoughts on matter, I’d be more than keen to hear them.

Otherwise, you’ll find some more interesting posts on story development in The Craft.

Need Vs Want

Give your characters something to pursue – something they desperately want. Do that, and you’ll create a far more interesting story.

Whatever they want, make sure it’s an external goal, something tangible and achieveable.

Put them through some hoops to get to it, but no matter how important it is – ensure they discover they don’t really need it before the end.

Getting what they want never gets them what they really need, and what they need is the important part.

Say your hero wants to rescue the princess (cliche, I know), but it happens (Luke Skywaker, anyone?). More than likely they’re going to do it (Luke does in fact rescue the princess).

However, is it what they need?

Do they really need prove something to themselves instead?

Maybe what they need is true love. Maybe its discovering or accepting something about themselves. Maybe its finally doing what they believe in.

Whatever they need, it will be internal.

Put simply:

  • Wants are an external goal, but getting them won’t fulfil your characters.
  • Needs are internal. When they fulfil their needs, the story is over.

It’s just another element to make your story more interesting and satisfying.

Read more about creating a writing/editing plan for your novel.

Started the rewrite

Mermaid image, found on http://cooldesktopbackgroundsx.com/I got my mermaid novel into rewrite mode this week after taking a couple of months off to let the feedback settle and get a bit of distance from it.

Reading through the notes was far more difficult than I thought it would be, not because they were bad notes or anything – just the opposite, but because:

a) it’s time consuming
b) criticism, no matter how well intended, is tough.

The first thing I did was acknowledge that being a mermaid story, it should probably start in the ocean. So I rewrote the first chapter – or more accurately, pushed the first chapter back and wrote an entirely new introduction.

Unfortunately, it didn’t work for me.

There isn’t much conflict that goes on in the water, and what there is I’m considering cutting back on. Almost the entire story is set on land. I could certainly introduce some more conflict (probably between the mermaids), but that creates an entirely new set of plot issues.

So that leaves me with two options – write some sort of ‘Indiana Jones’ style teaser, or go with what I have and try to make it better.

The Indiana Jones option has some appeal if I can find something suitable – something that introduces the main character (including her strengths and weaknesses), sets the tone of the story, and generally catapaults the reader into the action without otherwise being important to what happens next.

The current beginning is set on the beach and introduces the main character’s major internal conflict which leads into the main story. I works, but it could be better.

Any thoughts?

Threat Vs Conflict

Everyone says you need conflict in your story, internal or external.

But what about threats? Are they the same thing?

Is the evil overlord presiding from the mountain of doom who wants to rule the world the conflict in the story, or some sort of threat?

Think of it this way: the threat’s coming from the evil overlord. If not stopped, the threat will realised.

A threat is the potential for all sorts of nasty things, but of itself isn’t conflict.

Losing the world, in this case, is the threat.

So what’s the conflict?

Conflict is immediate. It’s happening.

It comes from the minions trying to kill the good guys, the ally who says ‘I’m not helping you today, I’ve got a High Tea to attend’, from the evil overlord (when they finally get face-to-face), and even the self doubts and fears your characters carry.

Conflicts are immediate – threats have potential consequences your heros aren’t going to like.

Read about creating a writing/editing plan for your novel.

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