Oct. 9, 2011 – After one successful day finished and done, Wordstockers return to the Oregon Convention Center on Sunday with a vengeance. It’s only 9am and all the bike racks are full; bikes are chained to railings and stairways and bus stop signs.
Workshop 3 – Building an Online Audience: How to Connect with Readers & the People Who Can Get You in Front of Readers Online (Elge Premeau)
I won’t reveal all the secrets Elge (emarketingstrategist.com) bequeathed to us, but I will tell you one thing: If she’s right, the way to find readers and sell books is to do your homework.
Who out there is blogging about your genre? Where do the reader communities lurk? She talked with us about coordinating guest blog posts, finding journalists in need, appropriately hooking up our social media, and more. She even granted us special access to her vault of information: links to vast resources, documents to aid in our quest for stardom, and more.
Some tools she recommended: Google Alerts, customizing your iGoogle homepage, starting a mailing list, and advertising on niche websites.
Workshop 4 – The Big Picture: Essential Story Structure (Johnny Shaw)
Johnny based this excellent seminar on the classic Aristotelian dramatic structure of three parts: beginning (Act I), middle (Act II) and end (Act III).
I want to reference our discussion of beginnings and The Hook way back when. Remember how The Hook grabs your reader from the very beginning? In this workshop we were taught how to properly feed that hook into the rest of a dramatic 3-act narrative.
Act I – You’ll place your Hook at the start of this section. Act I is the foundation of your story; establish character and world here. I learned at Steve Almond’s seminar last Friday that while we (as writers) might like to keep our readers in the dark, intentionally confuse them and worse, the more information you give the reader about your story at the get-go, the greater emotional impact the first scenes of your story will have on the reader.
Act I culminates in what Johnny calls an “inciting incident”: something that causes our character’s world to go from equilibrium to unbalanced. Act I can only end when the hero is at a point where he can no longer turn back or walk away. He is now trapped in the story and has begun heading toward the end.
One of my favorite quotes of this lecture was: “In real life, events happen one after another. In drama, each event causes another. This gives the story momentum and keeps it moving unstoppably forward.”
In each act, Johnny advised us how to maintain the momentum we’d gained from the inciting incident.
Act II – Now is the time to throw rocks at your characters. “Just beat the living hell out of them,” Johnny told us. The harder it is to imagine yourself writing your hero out of a corner, the better the finale of Act II becomes.
Act II ends when the hero is the furthest away from what he wants to achieve. Things are as bad as they can possibly get.
Johnny cautioned us, though, that Act II can turn episodic if the writer isn’t careful.
Act III – After the climax, the hero’s life returns to equilibrium—usually a new equilibrium than before. Johnny claims your worldview is visible through the equilibriums you choose.
For example, if everyone dies at the end… Well, you are obviously a sad, cold-hearted pessimist. If your ending is Disney-esque, then you must believe in the triumph of justice.
I guess I’m an optimistic realist with a mean streak?
And Finally: The Festival!
With relatives in town, I didn’t get to spend nearly as much time as I’d have liked to wandering around the exhibit hall. I did, however, meet up with Pauls Toutonghi, an extremely talented Portland author who has bestowed upon me vast encouragement and complimentary critiques. He suggested an excellent contact for me in the universe of literary agents—a world I have yet to even begin to understand.
I also brushed toes with Cory over at RainTown Press, who happily handed me my promised Advanced Reader Copy of Molly E. Johnson‘s Spartacus and the Circus of Shadows. It was a hoot to see him again, this time on the one-year anniversary of when I first saw RainTown’s enormous red umbrella logo at Wordstock 2010 last October.
I missed seeing my dear Michelle Anderson of The Miracle in July, mostly because I am a jerk and fell asleep between my workshops instead of making myself useful at the exhibition hall.
Last but not least, I left Wordstock with a pile of books (as per usual). Christopher Moore’s Practical Demonkeeping (shout out to Meredith and Caroline for the suggestion), an autographed copy of The Apothecary, and some other inexpensive hardcover book with a hot, angsty teenage guy on the front.