April 22, 2011

Regional SCBWI Conference, Part 4

Last section of notes! 

Carol Lynch Williams was kind enough to share some pearls of wisdom with us.  She started by having everyone write down a goal.  You're not a writer unless you're writing, right?

She spoke of "conference syndrome" -- only having the first few pages of a manuscript highly polished, but every page needs to be your best and connect emotionally to the reader.  She started to say that if you use a swear word, it needs a reason to be on the page, then backtracked.  _Any_ word you use needs to have a reason to be on the page.  Good writing is in the details, so utilize the five sense and avoid cliche words and phrases. 

She also talked about plot structure in a way I hadn't thought about.  A book opens with something to grab the reader, introduces the characters, and presents the problem.  Somewhere not long thereafter, there's a "point of no return" -- something that happens where things can never go back.  Right before the climax, there's another point of no return. 

I translated this all to Lord of the Rings, my native language.  Everything up to the Council of Elrond introduces the characters, the problem, and gives me a reason to care.  Previous to this point, Frodo planned to return home and enjoying the comforts of the Shire.  The Council is a game changer.  He can't go back, not if he wants the Shire to continue existing.  Frodo and friends gear up for the long haul.

At the end (and I think many times along the way), there's another point of no return.  Frodo, Sam, and Smeagol are deep in Mordor without a way to turn back.  Argorn and the rest of the good guys start a battle to draw Sauron's eye and give the little guys half a chance.  It's a tense moment in the book.  Everyone can't just gather in Minas Tirith, enjoy some tea and crumpets, and hope Sauron disappears on his own.  They're fully invested.  The "So What" factor I talked about in part three of these notes if scorching hot.

True, I did end up humming _Phantom of the Opera_ in my head, but this was another cool way to look at stakes and plot.

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