No, seriously. after getting the writing assignment on Monday, the running joke from the faculty was “the Horror of Thursday.” More on that in a moment.
This was the day the schedule became more “academic” – the workshopping was done and it was now time to turn more to conversations about bigger elements of writing craft. Scott Lynch started the day with a discussion of world building [personally, this was something worth the price of admission, in my opinion]. Simple take-away, and why I say this was worth it for me: I come from a gaming background, so when I have attempted to construct bigger fantasy things (especially bigger fantasy things) I have tended towards bogging myself down in the minutiae of developing the world. Not a bad thing, but working on all of that meant the story wasn’t going anywhere (yes, tectonic plates were discussed, not to mention dismissed). Right, the simple take-away: focus on what’s relevant to the story, and develop as needed. When bigger back stories are needed, worry about it then (and only use what is needed as “relevant” to the moment in the story it’s needed).
As a gamer – fellow old-ish school folks might remember some of these: I played mostly 2nd Edition AD&D. Forgotten Realms was usually the flavor of choice for most of the groups I ran with (which would be why I have a slew of FR paperbacks on my shelves, and am quite happy several of them are now coming back as ebooks – for the ones I wasn’t able to get way back when). But, as far as gaming supplements go, some of my favorite ones were the “Volo’s Guide to…” series (started with Waterdeep, but books also included Cormyr, the Sword Coast, the North, and a few others). I enjoyed them for the depth of extra details they provided, and became part of what I aspired to develop for my own fantasy setting.
And it failed miserably, as I hinted at above (read: lost momentum on the story since I was trying to build up the scenery).
Which is why I said Scott’s talk was all sorts of awesome for me. It helped me get out of my own head – for now at least – to skip what I had been doing and remember to focus on the important stuff: the story.
The second lecture of the morning was Steve Brust, and was subtitled “Stupid Writer Tricks.” The day was sunny, mostly clear, and only slightly chilly by this point (temps had risen to around 60), so we carried the session outside to keep things interesting.
After lunch Steve Gould talked about some of the perils of the writing life (yes, they are out there, and they are mostly social/emotional issues). The point here was to make sure we come up for air/socialization, and to not be afraid to ask for help.
Then came… the Horror.
We split up into small groups (of 3 students per faculty member), and took our fragile little stories that we had been working on since Monday, and processed them like slush in our groups. The story from each group that was judged “most complete” (by the students, not faculty) was then offered up to the group to be slushed again – the first page was read aloud by Macdonald, with the qualifying question: what would you be most likely to keep reading, based on the first snippet that we heard.
After this, we were told to find space on one of the walls and hang our stories up so that everyone could have the chance to read them.
Thus was the horror survived, and much rejoicing (and “mandatory fun”) was had.
After dinner we went for a walk to stargaze over one of the strips of beach down the road from the inn. We also watched the water for the bioluminous jellyfish that tend to gather in the area. Later that night, we reconvened (around 11pm) for more social conversation and stories from the faculty, with cookies served, the major event being Elizabeth Bear reading the story of The Unstrung Harp (or Mr. Earbrass writes a Novel). (“TUH!”)
And yet another thus… thus did Day 4 come to a close.