The last two days have been spent listening to Teacher lecture about Setting and Character. Two fairly big concepts. And a source of endless angst, since the lectures and discussions around them makes us see our stories in a whole new light.
So I looked at my story The Orchards. It started out as a contemporary fantasy story before I got here, but this past weekend I tore it apart, wrote 5000 words and all of a sudden I had a horror story.
"I'm writing horror", I said. "How did that happen?"
"Well", said Guitar. "It is raining outside."
So. The Orchards. Anthony Cook. Author and right now a fairly nice guy.
Does my character have an arc? Nope.
Does my character have an internal conflict? Nope.
Does my setting reflect my characters? Yeah, kinda sorta.
It's very easy to despair and rip apart everything we have written once we're confronted with Teacher's truths. Curse the truths! Though not really. They will make us better writers. It's just frustrating right now. And Teacher sure can teach. All the lectures come with examples from published fiction and while we learn we also have a good time. The tempo is high and the issues are huge, but we still have fun.
We touched on Showing vs Telling again, and learned of the "As you know, Bob" problem. This is where two characters in your world have a conversation about things they both already know. "As you know, Bob, here on Earth we have this thing called oceans. They are big and blue and full of fish." This is, as you might realise, not a good way to establish setting.
We also learned that you shouldn't exceed your strangeness budget. You can put too many strange things in your world/setting leading to overload and the reader not knowing what's important. Choose where you are going to be strange.
This is a recurring problem in all kinds of fantastic fiction. In fantasy it tends to be creatures, magic and geography, in sci fi it's aliens and complicated social structures, in horror the inclusion of too many mythologies (that's right, True Blood, I'm looking in your direction).
In all, two very interesting and productive days.
On a side note.
I was aware that this was a Catholic college before coming here. What I have forgotten to mention to all my readers (millions and millions of you) is that there is a monastery on the college grounds, and actual monks sometimes walk around on campus, black robes and all. So now I need to write something about monks.
I was also aware of, or at least suspected, that the college was fairly conservative. Yesterday this was proven when the Republican Party held their first debate in preparation of the election in 2012 here. I thought it was going to be local politicians, a governor or a senator or whatever. But nooooo.
These people attended:
I don't consider myself even a novice on US politics, but even I recognise some of those names. Heavens to Betsy, as Charley Horse would put it, what a lineup. Conservatives galore!
That's it. Tomorrow we keep going on Character, and I have my first one on one with Teacher. She will present her critique on the two stores I sent in before the course started, and then we will set up a plan for my development as a writer over the coming weeks. Very interesting, and I'm nervous as hell. Wish me luck!