Sunday, November 15, 2015

a challenging week

Today I submitted the last of the assignments for Catherine McLean's online course, "The Short Story"--this despite the fact that I was away all week, I've been coughing and wheezing for over a month, and I accidentally sliced open my left index finger, which reduced my customary four-fingered approach to typing to just three fingers. This week was definitely a challenge...but not because of that.

This week we looked at story setting and how to transition from the protagonist's ordinary world to anchor the reader in the story world. We learned that the setting is not about the scenery, but about enhancing the mood and tone of the story, adding drama, and maximizing the danger the protagonist faces. One way to create great settings with clarity and accuracy is to use photos, pictures, or sketches. Consider the time of day and the importance of lighting, the weather, and surrounding natural elements if and when they are important to the protagonist. Make sure you include enough description to allow the reader to visualize the setting just as you do, but don't waste words on unnecessary detail.
We learned how the inciting incident opens the door to the story world. If you make the mistake of describing the scenery and setting up the inciting incident before you introduce the protagonist, go back. Take all that description out. Start the story with the protagonist in action, and then feed detail back in as needed to anchor the reader in the story world.

We learned about different kinds of villains and antagonists, and how to name them.

Cruella de Vil

We created a word list of proper nouns to eliminate repetitious names and sounds, and to avoid overdoing it with monosyllabic words.

We studied the elements of conflict that all stories require. We looked at master plots, themes, and the forces that drive the story (character, plot, and premise). Finally, we arrived at memorable endings.

Many thanks to Catherine McLean for her attention and constant feedback during this two-week workshop. You can find information about other workshops and activities, and about a Pennwriters membership at
* addition, this week I finally finished reading all 693 pages of "Altruism--The Power of Compassion to Change Yourself and the World" by Matthieu Ricard.

I can only say this: if you care about anything in the universe--just one thing--you must read this book. Whether you care about compassion, cruelty, violence, war, poverty, global warming, environmental sustainability, corporate greed and fraud, global economics, or the fate of future generations, you must read this book. I insist...

1 comment:

  1. Hope you heal quickly...three finger typing is not the best lol.