I attended the WCDR breakfast meeting this morning. Speaker Lena Coakley was excellent, laying out the seven things she wished she had known about story, before she published her first novel. Lena is the author of Witchlanders, a high fantasy YA novel.
Some of her tips were:
- Learn about plot from screenwriters
- Know what your protagonist wants before you start to write
- Yearning must escalate in the protagonist as the story progresses
- Stories need to have different but linked character arcs and plot arcs
- Have your protagonist ‘save the bunny’ early in the story (perform some action to make readers like him or her)
- Mind the gap, ensuring reader expectations and character challenges are always worse and more interesting than they originally appear
- Use the objective correlative like a screen writer (the environment mirrors inner feelings)
This list is just a glimpse of Lena’s ideas which were supported by anecdotes and examples from authors as varied as Charlotte Bronte, Garth Nix, Aristotle and Terry Pratchett. If you get a chance to hear Lena speak, you won’t regret it.
Breakfast, with a side of suspense
While waiting for Lena to speak, we were served smoked salmon eggs Benedict, a delicious combination I could not eat. Why? They started naming finalists in the WCDR Amprosia contest. As my breakfast cooled, they called the final eight names, very slowly. I was sure I was ‘out’ when they said one last name, at the end of the alphabet: Maaja Wentz.
My story, “Wild Caving,” moves on to the final round, judged by acclaimed novelist Terry Fallis. Honourable mentions as well as prize winners will be announced at the March 16 breakfast meeting. I wonder if I can stand the suspense?