To recap: I am starting a new feature on the blog, the weekend workshop. Yesterday I summerized Chapter One of Story Sense by Paul Lucey. Now for the exercises at the end of that chapter.
1. Find news items that might someday be developed into a story idea. These are three I found in less than five minutes.
This is an article about bibliotherapists. ie, they assign you a reading list based on your issues to help you cope or change or grow. I love the idea. And I can imagine an entire beach read about a 20 something who wants to be a bibliotherapist and is an intern, the hilarity she endures, etc.
It has potential. What about a sociopath who wants to be a film maker so he commits crimes in a grandiose way and films them for his reel?
This is just a video of two black holes merging, but what if? What if your planet was in the middle of those two holes merging, could you stop it, or would you have to evacuate? What if those black holes were actually worm holes to other dimensions and now hundreds of dimensions are being merged when the black holes merge. Shrug. I’m not a sci fi girl but I could be.
2. Select your four favorite books and summarize the idea you feel organizes each of them.
I can’t do my favorite, it just paralyzes me, four FAVORITE, oh no. So I’ll just do four books I like.
Size 12 Isn’t Fat, Meg Cabot. Heather Wells is an ex-pop star who only wants to get a college degree so she can support herself after her record label drops her and her mother runs off with all the money she earned singing. Fortunately, her job as an assistant dorm manager comes with free tuition, unfortunately, people keep dying in her dorm, and rather than go to class, she solves the crime.
Star Wars Jedi Academy, Jeffrey Brown. Roan wants to go to the pilot academy so he can be a pilot like his dad and brother but he gets accepted to the Jedi Academy instead. Part cartoon and part diary, Roan explores the complications of growing up and learning to use the force.
Murder on the Orient Express, Agatha Christie. A man is murdered on a train buried in a snow drift. The killer must be among the exclusive passengers. Hercule Poirot must solve the crime without the benefit of any outside information.
Title Withheld, T.A. Henry. In post WWII London, an ex-military nurse must find a way back to the soldier who stole her heart. The ensuing adventure leads her to find herself.
3. How do these novels display dramatic contrast, humanism, and writerly perspective?
Size 12, forces a pop star to become a dorm manager. She goes from a pamper and insulated life to one of no prestige and little power. She is struggling to function in society when she was never given the skills to do so. This makes her lovable.
Jedi, Roan is extremely late to the academy, most children starting years before him. He is behind in all the skills he needs to excel. He makes all the mistakes young adults do. It reminds us of our own adolescent foibles.
Murder, Catch the killer. I tend to feel more for the suspects in this novel. They are all so desperate.
Withheld, Rich, upper crust young woman thrust into the movie industry. She is frequently blind to the reality that you as a reader see.
4. Select two novels and note how the locations add to the effectiveness of the stories.
Murder, without the train this could be any other Agatha Christie. LOL. But in reality the train draws a net around the situation. You know it must be one of these people because they are trapped. It heightens the psychological aspect of the work.
Withheld, Based in London post WWII, the location adds that level of reserve one wouldn’t find if it was based in say, new york in the present.
5. To which audiences do the books appeals?
Size 12, women age 16-45, looking for a light read.
Jedi, young adult 8-18, or anyone who likes star wars and can relax into the youthful ambiance.
Murder, adults who like complicated plots.
Withheld, women 25-45 looking for a beach read.
6. Are the stories done in a real, unreal, or surreal style?
Size 12, real.
7. Briefly describe two characters from each novel selected. Explain why they are interesting.
Size 12. Heather Wells, overweight ex pop star with a wry sense of humor about life. She picks herself up every time life knocks her down, dusts herself off, and writes a song about it. Cooper Cartwright, the love interest: active PI, tries to contain Heather but frequently helps her in her investigation.
Jedi. Roan, young boy who unexpectedly ends up at the Jedi Academy, artist, struggles with the class material. Yoda, comic relief. I love the way this book merges the struggles to survive being a tween with the struggle to learn the force. Reality meets sci fi.
Murder. Hercule Poirot, detective, brilliant, aware of it and possibly even over estimates his own brilliance, “tortuous mind.” To describe anyone else would give away too much of the plot. Read this even if you don’t read mysteries or Agatha Christie.
Withheld. Molly, ex nurse, budding writer, adventurous, determined, not constrained by societal concerns when it comes to the big things in life but attempts to maintain in all other aspects. Her brother, cohort in crime since they were young children, secretive.
There you have it. Consider doing this for your own work or books you like to see what makes them tick. It’s a great way to get in the practice of distilling what you are working on down to a couple of sentences. You never know when you have 30 seconds to charm an agent or editor or someone in the business with three lines about your own work.