December 22nd, 2010
Oh The Holidays…

Wow, I just realized how long it’s been since I’ve posted. I meant to post right after my screenwriter’s weekend, but frankly I was exhausted from the trip. So much socializing (which I rarely do) and a ton of info to cram in my brain. The screenwriter’s weekend was very, very interesting. I went into it with an eye toward helping my fiction writing and left with so much more. The people presenting the weekend were Syd Field, John Truby, Chris Vogler, and Michael Hauge. I’d been listening to a CD on characterization that I’d bought from Michael Hauge’s site that included Chris Vogler. The CD is why I decided to attend the weekend in L.A. As is my habit, I took TONS of notes. I’d love to share them all with you, but I am concerned that I will tip-toe into a proprietary bog if I do. So, I’m going to share a couple of things I got from each speaker:

Syd Field started the weekend off. He is credited with recognizing that most Hollywood movies have a particular formula no matter the genre. He wrote his findings down and other screenwriter’s followed. I took about five pages of notes while Mr. Field was speaking. One of the most interesting things I took away from his talk was his explanation of the difference between ‘Character Driving Action’ and ‘Action Driving Character’. He used ‘500 Days of Summer’ as an example of ‘Character Driving Action’ because from the very beginning of the film the character wants Summer back. Everything he does is in order to get her/win her back.  ‘Schindler’s List’ was used as an example of ‘Action Driving Character’. In the opening of the film, you see Schindler getting ready for a night out. There is no narrative or dialog. He ends up at a restaurant/cabaret with Nazi’s and goes out of his way to befriend them. You don’t learn until later that the reason he’s doing this is to save some of the Jews. Until Mr. Field explained  Action Driving Character and Character Driving Action, I don’t think I fully understood the difference. He went on to discuss the 9 different ways to set up character and story. If you’re interested in learning more, you can find info at his site.

John Truby was the next speaker. I’m embarrassed to say that I never heard of him. My mistake. BIG MISTAKE. He gave a talk on Advanced Story Structure and Genres that left my head hurting. I ran out of ink taking notes. I’m still in the process of digesting his talk. So much powerful information was given that it’s hard to pick out a few things, but I’m going to try. He talked about how writers think of the hero and all the other characters as separate people in the beginning. He said that’s how you end up with weak characters. He said the most powerful way to connect your characters is by having each secondary character show an approach to the hero’s central moral problem. He used the Dark Knight’s moral problem/question as an example: How far will you go to stop crime and get justice?.  He then compared Batman to the Joker, Harvey Dent, Rachel, and Morgan Freeman’s character. (This one takes some thought. Okay, a lot of thought. Like I said, my head still hurts thinking about it.) He said your hero is only as good as the person he fights. And when figuring out your plot, concentrate on your opponent–NOT the hero because the opponent provides all the story surprises. Mr. Truby’s talk was the deepest of all of them. He put a hell of a lot into his four hours. Fortunately for you all, he has CD’s and software available at his SITE. I would have purchased the software had I not already owned Scrivner. Once I make it through my notes, I will pick up some of his CD’s. His talk was worth the price of the weekend.

Chris Vogler opened the second day. I loved his enthusiasm. He truly is passionate about the Hero’s Journey. He provided the most handouts and apparently a friend of his is about to come out with the Heroine’s Journey next year. He said one of the best ways to open any story is to blame the lead character for something they didn’t do. It creates an instant audience attachment to the character because everyone at some point in their lives has been wronged. He also said that if a story doesn’t teach a lesson, then there is no point to it. One thing I found particularly interesting was when he talked about the 4th Stage in the Hero’s Journey (Meeting the Mentor). He said the Mentor can be internal. (Think Clint Eastwood’s characters.) He acts by his own set of rules and his own internal compass. I always wondered what you were supposed to do if your character really didn’t have a Mentor in a story. So that was a nice. I do have to admit that although I took a tremendous amount of notes, I’m still more than a little confused by the whole Hero’s Journey. Logically, I understand what he’s talking about, but applying that information in a novel is a whole other ballgame for which I’ve yet to understand the rules.

Michael Hauge closed out the weekend. He was well worth the wait. Like I said, I’ve been listening to his CD for several months now. Like all the other speakers, Mr. Hauge had a lot of great information. Several things stood out to me. He talked about how every turning point in a story should be an event that has NEVER happened to your main character before. Pretty obvious…until you think back on all the stories you’ve written. He also said that for a book/script/story to be successful the story cannot sustain just ONE desire throughout the entire manuscript. He talked about how the hero’s OUTER JOURNEY is a journey of accomplishment and the hero’s INNER JOURNEY is a journey of transformation–a journey from living in fear to living courageously. He also said that empathy has nothing to do with real life commonality. Which means an audience/reader can feel empathy for a character without having anything in common with them. And yes, I realize that I’m jumping around and only giving you a taste of what each of these talks entailed. You can find some great info on Mr. Hauge’s site. I love the characterization CD that I’ve had for the past several months.

We had a great time in California. Truly enjoyed the company Christmas Party and the lunches/dinners that occurred throughout the week following. I met some truly cool people and caught up with family. I returned exhausted. Have been helping out my friend, Tina while she recovers in the hospital. Heard good news yesterday that she might be home for Christmas. I’d appreciate you all continuing to keep her in your thoughts. It would be a glorious present. 🙂

Today I get the rights back on my entire Atlantean’s Quest series and on Tears of Amun. I plan to put them and Gothic Passions up on Kindle as soon as I finish the never-ending YA–which is closer to completion than it has ever been. I’ve put my list of potential agents together. It has grown from the original four I’d found. I plan to start querying in February. We’ll see what happens. I plan to take my time. Other than that, we’ve been gearing up for the holidays, fixing up the house, and donating a ton of stuff to the Salvation Army and to the library. Today is the first day I haven’t needed to run some place and it’s been a slice of heaven. Tomorrow I plan to go work on my book, then I have to return and make a bunch of holiday sweets to take to dinner on Friday. I hope you all have a Merry Christmas/Happy Hanukah and a safe New Year. May 2011 get even better for all of us.

8 comments to “Oh The Holidays…”

  1. “He talked about how writers think of the hero and all the other characters as separate people in the beginning. He said that’s how you end up with weak characters. He said the most powerful way to connect your characters is by having each secondary character show an approach to the hero’s central moral problem.”

    That is an interesting theory by Truby. At some point though in the movie or novel for that matter, other characters have to become something more than cardboard cutout references to the main character. They are acting out in the main character’s world but without individual voice they’re just scenery. Their problems, vices, humor, beliefs, etc provide the main character with a target rich environment to thread a solid plot together with.

    Anyway, great synopsis of your LA screenwriting foray. Merry Christmas! I hope this next year will be a profitable one for you, Jordan. Good luck with the YA.

  2. Bernard, I probably should’ve been more clear. It’s hard when you’re trying to summarize over ten pages of notes. *g

    He said that’s how you ‘start’ to build your secondary characters. He also suggested that they could represent different aspects of your world. It’s a way of deepening the world-building and the character development. You build them from that foundation. His point was that once you’ve built your secondary characters into real people (the whole point of the suggestion was to build richer secondary characters), then your hero/main character will automatically have more depth. He truly believes that if you start a manuscript by creating a hero, then your other characters suffer and weak writing is the result. Obviously everyone has their own way of doing things. 😉

    Personally I’m going to try it on my next project. 🙂

    Thank you. I wish I could go into super detail, but I really don’t want to step on toes since these guys are trying to make a living from the information. The CD’s are definitely worth picking up.

    And thanks! I hope the same for you, too. 🙂

  3. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! I hope 2011 brings great writing things. Sounds like you had a fascinating time at the workshop and learned a lot. And rah for rights reversion.

  4. Charlie, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you, too. May the writing fairy smile upon you, too. 🙂

    The seminar was fantastic. Best couple hundred bucks I ever spent.

  5. Thanks for the run-down! I will check out Truby’s site for sure. I teach story arcs, including the Hero’s Journey, and still find it confusing. I much prefer the Novem. It feels more intuitive to me. Glad you had a good time. Hope you’re rested for the holiday now!

  6. Hey Delilah, You’re welcome. You should check him out. He’s good. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of the Novem. What is that?

    I’m reading for them now…just barely. 😉

  7. Sounds like a great time, and fantastic information. And BIG CONGRATS on getting your rights back! Being able to get the books out to readers on kindle is a fantastic opportunity!

  8. Ursula, It was fantastic. Definitely got me thinking. Thanks! I’m looking forward to dropping the prices on those books. I hope that introduces my work to more readers. If not, it’ll be an interesting experiment.