Dateline: Houston, Texas at the Double Tree Hotel, the one that gives out cookies
Event: Story Masters!
Over 120 of us eager beavers gathered in a ballroom with barely enough outlets to power up all the laptops. There were a few skirmishes, but no bloodletting that I could see. That came when the workshop kicked off with Donald Maass, uber-agent and writing teacher extraordinaire. Next year he’s coming out with a new book, “Writing 21st Century Fiction” we got a preview yesterday. Maass asked the question: “What brings readers into a story, what makes characters more real than people we know in real life? What does that? The answer: Emotions. The feelings we engage in, that connect us to characters that makes a story something of power. We need to open an emotional landscape for them to walk through. We need to write emotionally. We need to open ourselves to the emotions we feel.”
The last sentence is the key: to open ourselves up to the emotions WE feel. We can’t expect our readers to go on a deep, emotional journey, unless we are willing to go there ourselves. Oh darn. So that is what I have been resisting in all these drafts.
And that is exactly what Donald Maass had us do. He walked us through a series of prompts, very specific, pointed questions. He asked us to take a deep breath, close our eyes and then asked: “What is the feeling that you are most afraid to put on the page?”
Wow, if that doesn’t get your heart going. I found myself in tears thinking about it. He reminded us that we have to do the heavy lifting ourselves; we need to be honest about our own feelings if we are ever going to create characters that our readers will fall in love with because they feel their emotions so deeply.
He followed up with questions like, “What are you afraid people won’t understand about us or will reject us, if you told it to them? What aspect of this feeling is the most fearful or shameful? Or silly? Is it when this feeling overtakes you? When does this feeling occur in your heart and your life? Is it associated with something specific, a time a holiday? An event in your life? Is there a person at whom or from whom this feeling is directed or provoked? Is there for instance, someone that you know, if you had the chance, someone you would kill? What feeling is it that makes you shake, humbles you, brings you up against your weakness and your humanity, possibly your strength? When does it occur? How does it manifest in you? How do you know when you are having this feeling?”
To me, if you can answer even one or two of these questions you are on the road to a much stronger, deeper, more emotional writing. And that is what readers are craving. That is just a small sample of prompts from the first full day of the workshop. Next time, I’ll share some of the tips we learned from James Scott Bell and Christopher Vogler. Now, sleep.
Thank you for stopping by. If you have any questions about the workshop, please feel free to ask, I’ll do the best I can to answer them. Cheers!
What an amazing workshop! Thank you for sharing. What am I most afraid of sharing, probably my spiritual beliefs and questions. It’s so easy to get slammed and labled if some one knows you don;t believe in the same thing they do.
But you have to stand up for what you believe in. Thanks for stopping by.
I am so jealous! Congrats on your great consultation.
Maass is absolutely correct. Emotions, especially those we’re afraid of, are what connect us. For me, the hardest to share is fear of failure, of not measuring up somehow. That one can paralyze me, if I let it.
Hope you continue to have a fantastic time at Story Masters.
I share your pain, fear of failure is a big one for me, but then isn’t it a big one for everyone else? so if we can channel that through our characters than the audience will have the sense of feeling like someone understands them, I think.
Wow, that workshop sounds awesome! Thanks for sharing some of the gems with us. I’m looking forward to hearing more.
This post is just a tiny fraction of everything they shared. Just to let you know, they plan to hold Story Masters in Seattle next year, around the same time of year.
rachel, thanks for inviting me to read your blog…gotta tell you, your writing is really quite humorous, so much so that I have been reading all this to my daughter. This writing conference is amazing. Those damm feelings always get in the way..doubt is shit and trust is golden! I do battle quite frequently but less and less as I (ahem) mature.
We are in Sequim and having our curiosity lead us to whatever. I found the very best farm store that your transvestite cowboy would love for dress up. Absoutly everything from fencing, dog stuff, plants, fertilizer, wonderful tools, chicken feed (I plan to have chickens) Mandys food at cheap cost to.seeds flowers etc… I love this store.
The house is even better than I remembered, saw elk passing through our front lawn yesterday. I also found another eagles nest, that makes 2 now on our property.
I am a lillte bit worried about the people here,it’s like I’ve been transported.into the twilight zone. E eryone is so old, even people like the guys that get the carts from the parking lots, waiters and waitresses, check out people all the young jobs are taken by very old people. Bryan and I feel quite spritely. Anyhow enjoy your conference, learn lots. aloha, daisy. Give your mom my best
Thanks so much for checking out my blog. It has been a lot of fun coming up with all of this stuff. I just finished the last section of the workshop. The instructors did a chapter by chapter
analysis of “To Kill A Mockingbird” which was just fantastic. It was wonderful hearing all of their interpretations along with other insights from my fellow students. I am so glad I had the chance to come to
this. I’m glad to hear that you are settling in. We’ll miss you at the dog park.