Writer’s Institute Review

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Did we all survive our encounter with the tax man this year? I assume I did. To be honest, I have my people take care of this. And by people I mean my husband, alone, in the basement. He’s reliable. He works for scraps. He doesn’t have a choice because we file jointly.

As I mentioned last month I would be attending the top writing conference in Wisconsin and one of the best in the country as voted by the readers of The Writer Magazine. This year for the first time the 30th annual UW Writer’s Institute kicked off on a Thursday morning continuing all the way through until Sunday at noon.

A session on Writing Masterful Scenes with Ann Garvin (@AnnGarvin_) and Tim Storm (@stormwritingsc1) got my attention Thursday morning.

These two. Lemme tell ya, they should present together at least once every conference. On their own, they’re wonderful in their own right, but together they have a wonderful tension that kept the session moving, which was appropriate considering the topic.

Tim reminded us that Robert Olen Butler said, “Plot is simply yearning challenged and thwarted.” He hooks the audience with a description of his worst night ever.

Ann then provided the wonderful analogy of a Roomba trying to get at the carpet under a table, having to constantly work its way around the legs. Your book is like that Roomba. The scenes that fill it should be full of desire, sensory details, and conflict.

Together they hit on a concept that was reiterated throughout the conference; that while information and backstory are essential bricks in the building of a story, they must not come off as such. The essential elements should be incorporated into the story so as to not take the reader away from the want or conflict of the scene. In other words, instead of constructing your story out of interlocking bricks, you have to take that information, iron it out, and shuffle it into your story like a card you’re adding to a deck.

I’ll continue my Writer’s Institute Review next time with a session I didn’t know I would be attending.


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