Friday, February 13, 2009

Flying Leaps and Writing Tips

I had the pleasure of hearing author Bruce Coville speak at a SCBWI conference last weekend. He gave a couple of very entertaining talks, although his presentation included some leaping on tables and chairs that made me a little nervous. Maybe that’s because I once went to a performance of Rent and saw the guy from Doogie Howser nearly wipe out while performing a similar stunt. But that’s another story. At any rate, Mr. Coville knew how to keep our attention, and I thought I’d share a few notes:

- His first bit of advice – really dig deep to answer the question of why you want to write, in order to realize what it is you have to contribute.


- An exercise he suggests - divide a piece of paper into six sections. In each section, write your strongest memory from grades first through sixth. You now have six story ideas. Repeat the exercise from time to time – you may have new memories.


- For each of the six memories, imagine an opponent’s viewpoint. Now you have six more story ideas.


- It’s common for people to write for one of two reasons – to redeem a wounded childhood, or to celebrate a happy childhood.


- Regarding plot and character, he recommends his theory of “Ha/Waa/Yikes”. That is, to incorporate these three elements into your story:


1. Ha: The belly laugh. Not necessarily a joke – but a way to connect with or relate to your character. I took this to mean something close to sharing a laugh with a good friend.


2. Waa: The tears. This could result from a sad event (the dog dies), but it can also be the result of making an emotional connection to the story.


3. Yikes: The gasp, or plot twist. Put your character in all kinds of trouble. The important thing is to make sure we’ve first come to know and like this character. You can’t care about what happens in a story unless you care about who it happens to.


- A word about slang – here is his list of slang words that have lasted through decades:


Cool

His advice if you want to use slang – make some up that is appropriate for the story. It’s the only way to be sure it’ll be timeless.

18 comments:

ICQB said...

Goink, man! That's, like, cool advice and stuff.

PJ Hoover said...

Great! He came to our SCBWI conference a couple years back and I agree - he was totally entertaining!

Cool - too funny. I do think awesome has some staying power, also.

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

Oh thank you for sharing that! I don't get to go to things like this...so reading the advice you gleaned second hand is truly appreciated--I like the last bit best about characters. Very COOL!

Ara Burklund said...

Great advice! Which SCBWI conference did you go to? Was it local?

Anne Spollen said...

Cool. Doncha feel inspired after you go to a conference? I mean, I don't go to them because I seem to always hear about them after the fact, but I would be inspired if I sat there and heard those ideas. Just sitting around talking about writing is inspiring, so a conference is like...amazing.

Suzanne Casamento said...

Great advice. I like the six memories exercise. Sounds like it would generate some good ideas. Thanks!

adrienne said...

ICQB - 'Goink' is so totally awesome! ;)

PJ - I thought the same thing - awesome does not seem to be going anywhere.

Green Girl - I know what you mean - I've only gone twice to the local conference, and I rely a lot on other people sharing tips.

Ara - Yes - I went to the one-day in San Diego. Have you been to it?

Anne - They are a lot to take in all at once, and things like the critiques and first page panels almost make the goals seem even more unreachable at first(not to mention the sheer number of hopeful people) - but once I have a chance to digest it, I do feel inspired.

Suzanne - I like that one, too. Right away some things came to mind.

Nora MacFarlane said...

Thanks for sharing! I love conferences, but I don't get to go to many.

Mary Witzl said...

I love that idea about the eight most vivid childhood memories, but the idea of looking at the same memories from an adversary's viewpoint is sheer genius. It's the way we should consider everything, really, except that we'd probably all go nuts...

At teachers' conferences, presenters frequently climb up on desks and wave their arms about; they put wastebaskets on their heads and blindfold themselves and do all sorts of crazy things. Writers do that too? No wonder I'm nuts.

Bish Denham said...

Cool!
Great post.

Brenda said...

Great tips!!! Thanks for sharing...

C.R. Evers said...

I would love to hear Bruce C. speak! Your notes are fabulous! thnx for taking the time to write them down!

Christy

Kim Kasch said...

I so enjoyed Bruce Coville at the SCBWI in Oregon. He was a wonderful speaker.

Paris said...

What a very good post. Thanks so much for sharing!! :)

Hope you had a good Valentines Day.

Rena said...

I like the 6 memories thing too. That's really ... uhh, cool!

Ara Burklund said...

Haven't been to any of the San Diego events yet, but I'm hoping to go to one of the next chapter meetings. Which reminds me--I should check what they have scheduled for March and April...

adrienne said...

Ara - Oh, me too!

Kelly said...

Bruce gave some great advice! Thank you for sharing, I am going to come back to this for tips.