Friday, October 16, 2009

PFC: Week 3

Week three was what I'll call "back to basics class."

For class #2, we handed in our first three page assignment to Pam. As a result, Pam started her class with the "this is how you format your pages" lecture.

Things like:
  • Put your name on your paper
  • Use paragraph break
  • Use the tab button at the start of a new paragraph
  • Here's how to properly format dialogue

Many, many people had questions on this, which I can honestly say surprised me. But I then remembered that I have an undergraduate degree in English, with a focus in creative writing (and learned this stuff in 101) and most people don't.

Then we moved on to point of view (POV). The discussion started as a focus on why it’s important to remain in a single character's head for an entire scene, why the omniscient narrator is often frowned upon by agents, and the difference between first and third person POV. I was fine with the lecture topic. I felt it was valid for everyone including myself, as it never hurts to be reminded of the basics from time to time.

She spent some time discussing things that are cliché - like having your character look in a mirror to establish what they look like in every itty bitty detail - and how real people don't walk around thinking "my I have lovely locks of shimmer golden hair and my eyes are as blue as deepest ocean." The concept she aimed to push home was that no description should be focused on unless it has validity. And that you have to always remember what set of eyes you're looking through, as your characters mind will influence how they describe things to the reader. Overall, a very interesting discussion.

Which proceeded to then turn into two hours of annoying. Again, many people asked valid questions. Some people were confused about certain things, which is fine. My problem was that the discussion degraded into people asking the same EXACT questions over and over - like they weren't listening to the person before them who asked the same question and got the exact same answer.

Then we moved into "but I'm going to do this rule breaking in my book and its okay because of XYZ, right?" and "Are you just saying this because it's actually true because agents might prefer this but it’s not always the case, right?" And we even had one person trying to talk LOUDER THAN Pam so she could make the point of why it was important that the first book she's ever attempted to write was the exception to the rule and therefore, it was okay for her to break the rules.

Ugh. Once again I'm reminded why I will never be a teacher. I am simply not patient enough. Pam, on the other hand, is amazing and patient as a Saint, but firm at the same time. Kudos to her.

Because of the time this took, our exercises were limited. We filled out a questionnaire about our story and characters for the first exercise. For the second, we talked a bit about the role of the mentor character in a novel and the relationship they have to the hero. And that they almost always give some kind of a gift to the hero, be it advice, a physical object or support in a difficult situation.

So our second exercise was to take that idea, and write a scene between our hero and mentor in which the mentor gives a gift to the hero. This scene, Pam suggested, should take place in chapters 1 or 2, no later than 3.

Since I'm well into chapter 4 of Ala'der, I decided to go through and find out if I had already put a scene in that fit the bill. I had! It was in chapter 2. Perfect! So I spent my time tweaking the scene, and I have to hand in that scene expanded into three pages for next week. No problem.

Next week we're going to do some full blown critique groups. Should be interesting.


Dominique said...

This is interesting.

In my book, my character passes through as series of mentor type individuals in the first four chapters, all of whom give her advice in some form. And, in the second or third chapter, one of them gives her a pair of shoes.

I don't know how I feel about there always being a mentor, but I think people have them in their lives so it wouldn't be shocking to have a mentor in a story either.

The Screaming Guppy said...

The word mentor was meant to be used loosely, I think. She gave a few other examples that were less standard, but I'm having a brain fart.

I'll post if I think of them! Haha!

beth said...

Many, many people had questions on this, which I can honestly say surprised me. But I then remembered that I have an undergraduate degree in English, with a focus in creative writing (and learned this stuff in 101) and most people don't.

But...the thing is, if they want to be writers, they *should* be readers--which means they *should* have picked up on the mechanics of fiction writing.

Grammar is a huge pet peeve of mine. When I decided that I wanted to pursue writing, I knew that one of my tools would be grammar. A writer needs to know grammar like a painter needs to know how to draw--it's the foundation of our art. True--like you, I knew that I wanted to write while still in the education system, and therefore I was able to learn those skills early on from professionals. BUT. If you want to write, you *must* learn grammar! Especially the basics, like punctuating dialog!! It's not that hard, and every book you read should have!

*pant, pant* OK, rant over.

Lady Glamis said...

Great information and round up of your class! I can just see you steaming in there. Hah!

I'm confused as to the whole mentor thing. You're supposed to have a scene like that in your book? Or is this just an exercise you're doing for the class?

Now I sound like one of the bad students. Errr...

The Screaming Guppy said...

The discussion was about the role a "mentor" can play in a novel, so yes. The idea was to write a scene for your book involving a mentor of some kind giving a gift a some kind.

And the use of mentor is a broad and general term. A friend giving a simple piece of advice like "look both ways before crossing the street" could fit this line of thinking, providing the advice becomes relevant later. For example, maybe the hero almost get hits by a car in chapter 25, but lucky enough for him, he remembers that his buddy told him to look both ways in chapter 2 - and it saves his life!

Dun dun dun! *gasp!*


And no, Glam. That was an awesome question.

Lady Glamis said...

Well, hmmm, do I have this in Monarch? I'm not sure...

The Screaming Guppy said...

From just what I read of Monarch, I can think of two things that might qualify. (Sorry, character names are escaping me right now. I haven't my caffiene yet.)

Doesn't your MC give advice to his love interest's son? And second, you could argue that they trust they give each other (MC giving the son information about his job and that he's in trouble) falls into this niche.

At least based on the idea Pam was suggesting. :)

Lady Glamis said...

Oh, well, that works! Yes. :)