Sometimes on the way to your dream,

you get lost and find a better one.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Creative Writing Class

I'd only been there five minutes and already knew I wasn't as well educated or as well read as anyone else there.

Didn't bother me, I was there to learn. The teacher herself is a published author, and has been teaching this class and others for fifteen years. Hopefully she can impart some of her knowledge to me, even more hopefully the knowledge will stick in my mind instead of just passing through, which is what usually happens. 

You all know people who read books and can then tell you the story from beginning to end? 
That's not me, can't do it. 
I could give you a vague condensed version....then there are people who can discuss, dissect, offer different interpretations and all that other highbrow stuff. 
Again, not me. 

I read the book, enjoy the story, finish it, the end. Next book please.
Which all leads (again) to the fact that I don't assimilate(?) knowledge easily. 
I understand a lot of things purely on instinct. 
If I'm asked to explain them, I'm a fish out of water. 
Because I don't know how I know these things.

Sheldon Cooper I'm not.
 
And all around me were people discussing and offering their interpretations on the short pieces we'd been given to read. I had a different opinion, we all had differing opinions, but I actually managed to say so, which is a big plus for me. I'm usually the quiet one in the corner. 

So here is a bit of what I learned>>>>>>

Writing can be broken down into poetry and prose. 

We all know what poetry is, rhyming and verse, although there are more complicated styles out there and we will learn a bit about those too. 

Prose, on the other hand is what we are all more familiar with. This is the writing that we read in books, magazines, newspapers.  Prose is further broken down into fiction and non-fiction. 
We haven't yet covered the non-fiction part.

Fiction is then again broken down into story and non-story. Which confused me until she explained. 
Non-story breaks down into character sketches, setting sketches, (also called vignettes), a moment in time, a slice of life. The minute she wrote those on the board I had a lightbulb moment. 

The pieces I write on Fridays (Wednesdays Words on a Friday) aren't actually short stories, although I will continue to call them that. 
They are mostly "moments in time", some are "slices of life".

A descriptive passage that is or can be part of a whole story. 
I sort of already knew this, as a few of you have sometimes commented, "write more, I want to know what happened", and this is good. It's encouraging. 

But, (there's always a butt and I'm usually sitting on it), this is where I get stuck. I have no idea how to expand these pieces into a full story. This is why I am taking a class in creative writing. 
So when the teacher started explaining what a short story actually is, I paid attention. And took notes. 
A complete story encompasses characters, preferably strong and consistent throughout the story; a plot; some type of conflict; a resolution of that conflict. This is where I fall flat on my face. There hasn't been any conflict in my life, or if there has, I simply haven't noticed it. 
I'm the quiet one over in the corner, remember? With my nose in a book so the outside world doesn't get in. 
This means I have no idea, or not much, of what conflict is, nor how to introduce one into a story. 
Resolution? That's easy, everyone apologise and live happily ever after right?  
Apparently not. 
A plot? Hmmm, isn't plotting something governments do when planning wars?

You might think that with reading so much, I'd have a better handle on all this, but like I said before, my mind doesn't take in information easily and it is even harder for me to explain what I've read/learned. 
So now I need to pay more attention to what I am reading and how the writer has structured the story. Instead of just enjoying the book. Sigh.

Getting back to what a short story is.....we start by learning that there is such a thing as a short short story, often called flash fiction, which carries 750 to 1500 words. 
Already I'm in trouble. My longest piece has 634 words and is still only a "moment in time". 
Then we have the short story, minimum 2000 words and going up to 5000 words. 
The long short story covers 5000 to 9000 words and here we are getting into novella territory. I've read a few of those, they take a couple of hours to read and then you're done.

After that you get into book territory. 50,000 words is a small book, for instance the short Mills and Boon romances so favoured by most of our mothers. 
A decent sized novel is anywhere from 80,000 to 100,000 words, roughly 400 pages. 
My preferred size.


(One of the students has already written a book and is currently editing his third draft, wonder why he is there?)

We were advised that if we wanted to work towards writing and being published, we shouldn't be showing our first drafts to anyone, at which point I mentioned that my stuff is all over the internet. This is when I learned that since my pieces aren't complete stories, they're okay "out there". 
It was mentioned that writing under a psuedonym was a good idea, so I lost track of what was being said for a moment (or ten) while I tried to think of one. 

Another thing we learned is that readers will identify themselves with the character or the author and this is why many authors publish under initials rather than full names, thus remaining gender neutral. 

The most important thing to remember is that every single person who reads your book or short story will have their own interpretation of what you've put down on paper. So you need to write with them in mind, not just for yourself. There is no point in writing something you love and understand if no one else can understand the meaning behind your words.  

All up, quite a lot for a first night. And homework too. We'd read a couple of short monologues and decided whether they were stories or non-stories. (Non)
Our homework is to try and write a monologue. 
It's optional, doesn't have to be handed in and won't be read out in class. When writing a monologue, we must try to envision the listener too. 

Next week should be interesting.

Anybody know where I can buy a thinking cap?
 

16 comments:

  1. Your class sounds terrific! Don't let any of those other people in there intimidate you, though. Doesn't matter how much education or experience any of them have. You have a good mind and natural talent... and you already know what you like to read. Most of the time, I think we're better off writing the sort of thing we'd enjoy reading.

    Have fun with it! A thinking cap? A metal colander with some artificial flowers poked through the holes works for me. (I think...)

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  2. I'll be interested to see some of your stories and your slices of life on the blog. I hope you learn and retain tons! :)

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  3. I believe you've dug in for the long haul. You'll be great, which is a good thing as I don't know where to find thinking caps.

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  4. The course sounds wonderful. But hard work. I am so happy for you - and am really looking forward to more writing from you. Your vignettes, slices of life, short stories are always a treat.

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  5. Fantastic post. I'm book marking this to come back and read when I'm stuck.

    PS I love monologues. And I think they really enrich books. They let you enter the pages and really be there.

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  6. Sorry, no thinking caps over here...I have a nightcap lol. Your course sounds like it would be really helpful...and hard. Good luck.

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  7. Hey River,

    Now that's going to be one heck of an experience. You've taught me quite a lot in this posting. And creative writing will be such a positive resource for you.

    As for Flash Fiction, I wont tell you what I thought that meant.

    Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

    Gary

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  8. Susan; the hardest part will be a plot and conflict, resolution should be easy, but a plot that hasn't already been written a thousand times by a thousand authors...well. On the other hand, I do have a metal colander...thanks for the encouraging words.

    Happy Elf Mom; have a look through my archives, I've been writing small pieces every Friday for months now.

    fishducky; thanks, she does give good advice.

    Joanne; I'm not sure about the long haul, but I'll give it a good try.

    Elephant's Child; hard work is something I'm not used to, not mental hard work anyway, after 9 years of check out work I'm just about brain dead.

    Mrs Catch; I hope you enjoy what you read, lots of times I put up photo posts, there is a fiction piece every Friday.

    Delores; I'm hoping it will be helpful with learning how to structure a story. Maybe I'll use my halo as a thinking cap.

    klahanie; happy I can pass on the teachings of my teacher. I'm curious about what you thought flash fiction meant.

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  9. Hi River,

    I've been thinking about taking a creative writing course myself (and boy do I need one).

    Good luck.

    :-)

    Cheers

    PM

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  10. The course sounds like it might be quite challenging, too much so for me. But you have already learnt a lot in one lesson. I hope you stick with it.

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  11. I am just remembering when you at times wrote longer posts about your childhood or early years and I think you kind of instinctively knew how to put the elements together into a coherent story.

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  12. Andrew; I'm definitely going to stick with it. coherent stories are easy enough when you're writing about something you know and I was always good at essays as a school kid. But a fictional story is something I'm finding hard to do, 2000-5000 words? AND a plot with conflict and resolution. I'm working on it though, I have a draft going which is currently just over 1400 words.

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  13. My word there is so much food for thought in all you have told us about the writing class. I do remember much of what I've read but only if it has been of interest. I do usually remember books by Dick Francis because they are not just stories but contain so many items of interest.
    I was so interested in the fact you have to write a monologue but you didn't give a definition of one. Apparently they are somewhat different from soliloquies, epiphanies or asides. An example given of a monologue is Macbeth's "tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow' after he learns of Lady Macbeth's suicide. It is about the most famous of them all. It's one I've always loved as I think it tells us so much about what life is all about. Do check it out and see what you think of it although you probably already know it or know of it.
    I wish you good fortune with your writing course. We all know you have the talent and a wonderful imagination. Unless you are thinking of publishing your written works, you should write for yourself but also share it and perhaps ask others their opinion. We are all good critics, of that I'm sure.

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  14. Mimsie; I forgot to mention that a monologue is one voice, either one side of a conversation with the other side unheard or a single conversation or train of thought in someone's mind, which was another example we had to read. I haven't read any Shakespeare, his works were studied in the higher grades at high school and I was working by then. I'll get Macbeth from the library the next time I go.

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  15. How exciting! Don't worry about what you don't know - you're a good writer. And learning how to construct a story is what you're there for. Enjoy it!

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