I thought it would be nice to post some highlights with interesting tidbits. I'll touch briefly on three classes--Warfare for Writers, Map Quest, and The Fire In Fiction.
Mind you, all of the classes were a great help, but I figured touching on only three would give everyone a taste at least. =)
Warfare for Writers was taught by my awesome mentor, Timons Esaias. He is a fount of information, especially when it comes to the technical side of things. He did not disappoint. I took four pages of notes, and I still feel like I missed some important things he discussed. He is also writing a book on this very subject, so keep an eye out for it if this is a topic you're interested in!
So, I give you four of Timons Esaias's sword no-nos (yes, I have accidentally broken at least one of these rules in the past): NO swords on backs, NO swords in the sun, NO tensing on the grip of a sword, and NO flipping and rolling the sword for show, especially on horseback. If you think carefully, you'll understand exactly why these are no-nos.
Do you know of any other mistakes writers make when dealing with swordplay?
The lovely Maria V. Snyder taught Map Quest, a class I sorely needed. First rule of creating your world: no square maps! Oops. She offered many other helpful tips, and I will be referring back to my notes soon when I map out the world of Bodhira for Dead As Dreams.
One thing that we fiddled with during class was creating a map from scratch without a story in mind already. The resulting map may or may not actually give ideas for a story or novel. I know when I wrote my will-never-see-the-light-of-day novel in high school, I created a map of my entire world (yes, it was square, well it was 8 1/2 by 11), even though the novel only took place in two of the kingdoms. By drawing out all thirteen kingdoms of Chyraine, though, the map itself spawned two other short stories, and maybe more in the future. It's amazing what a single map can kindle. ;) If you'd like to try the exercise we did in class, you can visit Holly Lisle's website.
Also, a few tools for map creation were discussed, including the Civilization games. Sure enough, my husband's copy of Civilization III has a random map-making tool. This could be useful for me. Then again, I could get sucked into playing the game!
Do you have a hard time creating maps for your worlds? What do you find the most difficult?
Finally, I wanted to give a mention to our guest speaker, Donald Maass. He spoke in connection with his book The Fire in Fiction. And he made us work! We had two sessions with him, totaling around four and a half hours, and he threw tons of questions at us. I couldn't have been more pleased with what he was asking. His main focus was on bringing our characters alive to tell a good story. Those questions he threw at us were about our characters and our worlds, challenging us to dig deeper, explore further into the stories we've created. I wrote down all the questions he asked, and I intend to use them with every novel I write. You want to create depth? Well, if his book is anything like his talk, buy it!
Here are four of my favorite questions: Can the protagonist want the opposite of what she usually wants at the same time? What would it mean for the protagonist to fail in the story (what would be unredeemable and permanent)? What will the protagonist do to keep her big secret? Who's the person the protagonist most needs to forgive, and why is it impossible to do so?
What questions do you think should be asked of every protagonist or every story/world?
Overall, I learned a lot during this residency, and I am sad that it was my final one. However, I do know I'll have the chance to learn even more at the In Your Write Mind Retreat every year!
Please note the questions I asked throughout the post. I look forward to seeing what other people think about these subjects. Happy writing, all!
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