Monday, November 12, 2007

"Show Me the Story"

Yesterday I attended my first creative writing class: a workshop titled "Show Me the Story." I want to tell you all about it, but there's this nagging voice in the back of my head saying "show them." Well, too bad for that voice: I'm telling.

The workshop was at The Loft literary center in Open Book (which also houses the Minnesota Center for Book Arts (MCBA), more on that later). There was a church service going on in the room above us, so the first hour was very distracted by songs, music, and the creaking of the floor as people danced and swayed.

I feel like I learned a lot about how what I already do is "right." I don't mean that there is only one way to write, but rather, that I already use a lot of the techniques we discussed. We talked about four techniques that can be used to "show" a story: Sensory detail, action, thought, and dialogue.

Sensory detail is the five senses. I'd already heard a lot about this, so I was glad we didn't spend too much time on it. In all honesty, I was worried that this would be the sum of the whole class.

Action, in short, meant verb choice. Use strong verbs that have the specific meaning you want for your sentence, paragraph, story. But watch out for too many verbs in a section that needs to be shorter.

Thought is thought: describing emotions, thoughts, imaginings. It can be used to show what is going on outside of a character through that character's own interpretations. I felt like this was one of the harder techniques for me to work with. So it will be one that I try to practice more.

Dialogue: people talking. It was really interesting to discuss how conflict can be expressed through dialogue. One way to show tension through dialogue that our teacher mentioned a few times was to "have the characters on two scripts." Example: Howard and Phillip are at a bar, Howard is trying to get Phillip to help him go through his late great uncle's things. To show that Phillip doesn't want to, without saying "no," you could have Phillip talk about all the different girls in the bar. I'm still a little weak when it comes to writing dialogue, but it was a fun challenge, so it's something I will enjoy practicing.

It was a great class and a big ego boost to discover that I've been doing some of these things already. I would definitely take another class there.

As for the MCBA... on Sunday during my class they were having a Book Arts Fair. It was great to stroll around the several tables, admiring all the hand bound books, hand made papers, prints, calligraphy, poetry, and other crafts that were on display. Oh and their store! It had all sorts of great papers, books, bookbinding tools, and other curiosities. I can't believe it took me 2 years to get there!

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