Naming Your Characters – Alpha Heroes – Love Scenes – The Perfect Query Letter – Synopsis Writing – Plotting – Writing Humor – BDSM – Characterization – World Building
When I decided to take workshops last year, I was amazed at the myriad of classes available. It’s kind of like being at a shoe sale. You’re there to buy a pair of sensible pumps and you end up with several pairs of shoes you don’t need. I say this because I took at least twelve workshops in 2010. While I learned something from each one, I went overboard.
Some workshops sounded fun, but they didn’t fit my current needs. Some workshops weren’t interesting enough to keep my attention. And some workshops made me question my sanity and ask myself why I wanted to be a writer. Ironically, it was these workshops that helped me the most.
The Plotting Wheel: Instructors – Becky Martinez and Sue Viders
This workshop covers the ten integral parts of plotting a story. Characters-Crusade-Cause-Complications-Companions-Clashes-Crisis-Change-Climax-Conclusion.
The class consisted of ten assignments beginning with characters and ending with the conclusion. I thought I knew my characters, their GMC and the plot. After all, it was my story. Wrong. But why, Jennifer? I heard that a lot in the first couple of weeks. Becky and Sue made me reach for the pickaxe and shovel. Why became my mantra for the next few weeks.
Why does Casey refuse to get involved with Gray?
Uh, because she’s had a string of bad relationships.
But why has she had a string of bad relationships?
Um, because she doesn’t feel worthy of being loved.
But why doesn’t she feel worthy of being loved?
Gee, because her mother’s a cold-hearted social climber with a penchant for Italian leather goods, who physically and emotionally abused Katie. (Applause)
The class forced me to dig deeper and flesh out my character’s true motivations, their attributes and flaws, the cause of their fears and needs. I was the shrink asking questions and taking notes while my characters lay on the sofa in my imaginary office and spilled their guts. The answer was there. I just had to find it. And boy, I suffered through a lot of ‘duh’ moments.
I learned the importance of fully developing my characters from the inside out. Because of this, I was able to weave their emotions and motivations into the plot more effectively and make the story more engaging. A great plot is nothing without strong characters.
Becky and Sue commented on every assignment and addressed all of the participant’s questions. I found it interesting that they each pointed out different problems when commenting on my assignments. The class handouts are definite keepers. I still refer to them to when I’m creating a character.
Synopsis Workshop: Instructor – Mary Buckham
As writers, we all know the synopsis is a permanent part of our landscape. A contest newbie, I’d noticed some contests which required a synopsis. There were several examples of synopses on-line and lots of blogs on how-to-write-a-synopsis. And they all had conflicting information.
In Mary’s class, the assignments required us to fill out a template. Each template covered one of the elements of a synopsis—characters, internal and external plots, the first plot and second plot points, the black moment and resolution. Combine the templates in their respective order et voilà a synopsis! It’s a simple, no-nonsense approach, and it’s a lot tougher than it sounds.
Answering the questions on the templates required more digging.
Again, I thought I knew my story, but Mary (a serious taskmaster, who’s also seriously nice) questioned my character’s motivations and pointed out possible plot holes. While I knew the answers, my problem was presenting them in a concise and coherent manner. By the end of class, I understood the importance of each component in a synopsis. I managed to write a 500-word synopsis for my projected 100K word manuscript. Let me tell you, amazed doesn’t even come close.
Mary also provided two different methods of writing a synopsis, one which includes back-story, derived from the internal conflict (for romance) and another, written with back-story based on external conflict (for suspense-action).
While there was a limit to the number of participants in the class, I was astonished that Mary followed everyone’s stories, gave individual feedback and patiently answered our questions. Writing a synopsis isn’t my favorite thing to do, but this class clearly defined the purpose of a synopsis and made it less scary. I completed a ten-page synopsis two weeks ago. I know I would’ve been in a straitjacket if not for this class. The handouts are the bible of synopsis writing. Learn from the master. www.marybuckham.com
Writing Hot Delicious Love Scenes: Instructor – Nicole North
A kiss isn’t just a kiss when you’re trying to convey the emotion behind that kiss, how it feels and tastes. Providing examples through written scenes and videos, Nicole combines the necessary elements of a love scene beginning with vocabulary. What you say? Well, how many different ways can one describe body parts?
One of the things I liked the most about the workshop was the way it progressed, much like a build-up to a love scene. That is, there was a logical order to the lessons. After gaining a foothold on vocabulary, we explored sexual tension, motivation, and foreplay as well as the physical and emotional aspects of sex.
I learned a lot about writing internal thoughts and deep POV, which is necessary in a love scene. What are your characters thinking about during intimacy? Is your heroine mentally balancing her checkbook while the hero’s thinking she’s the next best thing to the NFL cable channel and a cold six pack? Does your heroine have an emotional response in addition to her physical one? If there’s one thing that stuck with me, it was how a love scene wasn’t really about the sex, rather how the act affected the character’s emotions and how it added to the conflict.
This was my first workshop. It taught me how to write a well-balanced, emotionally satisfying love scene through the use of dialogue (establishes the personality of the character) and the senses (very important), deep POV and internalizations (get inside his/her head), and humor (personalizes the scene).
I’ll admit I’m shy about having people read my stuff. However, Nicole created a comfortable environment for the class participants to share their assignments. I’ve taken two other workshops from Nicole, Sexual Tension and Instinctive Characterization, which were well worth my time.
A gifted and enthusiastic instructor, Nicole gives plenty of feedback and patiently answers everyone’s questions. I’ll share a secret with you….the class handouts alone are worth the price of the workshop.
Nicole’s teaching a workshop beginning February 1st on Description and Detail: Bringing Your Story to Life. www.nicolenorth.com
Are you still with me? Let’s talk shop! Tell us about some of your favorite or most useful workshops.
On Wednesday, join us for an interview with world traveler and author Loucinda McGary.
Jennifer Tanner writes contemporary romance with a sprinkle of humor. By the time she was ten, she’d read through the entire children’s section in the bookmobile and began forging her mother’s signature in order to check out adult-themed books. After twenty-five years in the transportation business, she now writes full-time and fantasizes about a spotless house and perfect risotto.Currently finishing her first manuscript, Jennifer is a member of the RWA and lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and two cats.
For more information, please visit: http://jennifertanner.info.
- April Online Class Giveaway with Yellow Rose RWA
- June Online Class Giveaway with From the Heart Romance Writers
- July Online Class Giveaway with Kiss of Death
- Writing Hot Love Scenes
- Tackling the Synopsis by Rachael Thomas