A blog about writing and all things story…
When you listen to Larry Brooks teach, lecture, sermonize or coach you kinda get the impression that he wants you to succeed – you know, catch the ball and make a touchdown. I don’t do sports, so using a sports metaphor is a risky venture; I always get the balls and what one does with them mixed up, but you get the point… I hope.
Anyway, at the Willamette Writers conference a couple weeks ago I had to opportunity to sit in on one of Larry’s classes. It was 8:30 AM Sunday. I was dog-tired, running late which meant no coffee, and as I sat down in the front row I realized my eyes felt weird. I turned to my friend, local Seattle author Bharti Kirchner and said, “Do I have eye make-up on?” She glanced at me in her always-composed way and said, “Don’t you know?”
I felt my eyelashes; one eye had make up, the other did not. Bad things happen when I don’t start my day with coffee. Very bad things. I immediately went to the lobby, maneuvered through the crowd of other sleepy writers who gathered near the coffee, grabbed 3-cups (all I could carry) and returned to class.
Keeping up with Larry Brooks (who at 8:30 AM seems to have a very loud voice) that first hour took guzzling those cups of coffee and taking copious notes so I’d remember later what I was too exhausted to grasp in the moment. Perky Bharti sat poised and listened intently – clearly not a coffee devotee.
For me, and others whom I spoke to, coffee is a vital ingredient at the end of a conference which after 3-4 days of stuffing info into my head, volunteering and socializing, my brain is lethargic, my body weary and ready to drop into a hotel lobby chair and sleep right there in front of everybody. Of course, by the last day the other 700+ writers also looked like lobby zombies, so I fit right in with my lone mascara’d eye. Heck, it was better than last year when I left in a wheel chair and Larry Brooks left in a foot brace. Long story; read it here.
Anyway, the top 3 critical things on the last day of a conference are;
1- Take notes so you can actually put into practice the things being taught. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT rely on your memory; it’s faulty equipment. Trust me.
2- Good coffee (I think I’ve covered that.)
3- The instructor’s use of visual aids.
Instructors’ can get away with a lack of visual aids the first couple days because we’re all just so darned happy to be there and eager to learn. But come Sunday, you better keep us awake with something more than your voice, cause that’s not gonna cut it.
Thankfully, Larry knows this. He had visuals to rouse my sluggish disheveled wits. One in particular was his board (see, I took a snap with my phone.) As you can see he has the basic three (four-ish) Act structure which everyone since Aristotle has preached. However, Larry added these four words that resonated with my story; orphan, wanderer, warrior, hero. BOOYAH! I was awake. That’s my protagonist journey, exactly.
TIP; draw out this chart, either on paper your wall or a board like Larry Brooks did and see how your story works within the three act structure. Do your scenes fit into part I, part II or part III the way they should? If not, start editing. I mentioned Larry’s new book
Well, read it. And visit his site at Storyfix.com
Here’s some video of Larry’s class, but as you can see I was reluctant to put down the coffee and use both hands on my camera, so it looks like a bumbling one-eyed video-grapher (is that a word?) was in the room – not too far from the truth. Larry talks about the 5-step process…the difference between concept & premise, and so much more. Click here
And here’s one last stab at that sports metaphor; conference instructors, of which Larry was just one, are like coaches or team mates passing you the ball and cheering for you to make it to the finish line.
So have some coffee, read your notes and get back to work.
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By Miri Elm
(re)Living History, with occasional attempts at humor and the rare pot-luck subject. Sorry, it's BYOB. All I have is Hamm's.
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