Monday, 15 August 2016

Cleckheaton Literature Festival - Justina Robson Science Fiction and Fantasy workshop 22 April 2016

Justina started off her workshop explaining about narrative grammar and how events are told to illustrate what makes them work.

Essential story elements of Goldilocks and the three bears was given as an example and the attendees were asked, what can't you do without?  She then explained that there are two tales, an older and more modern version plus and opera, and she asked attendees to think of another variation or things you can add/take out to make it different, e.g. the three characters don't have to be bears and what they mess with could be other things.

The story has the 3 act structure (stories can also be 5 acts) and odd numbers seem to be prevalent especially 3, birth-life-death.  The big unit is an act, then breakdown into scenes, then break those down into beats for an organic delivery of the story, but be sure to tell it in the right order.

Christopher Booker - the dialectical three, first move one way, second moving in opposite way or third just right.

The real story is weak cause and effect and action, so it must have casual links and they must matter to make it exciting.  Everything slowing them is important, so make a status quo and then change it until the story is finished: links - actions - consequences.

She then asked us to beef up another story to make it pop.  Each participant then shared their story for feedback.

Give an expert delivery of information, each part is its own little story and work up to something more complex.  Rely on people's ability to remember so it needs to be vivid and link events together.  Make it easy to get through the story and then the better it is.  Decide how and when you tell them what they've got to know, if it is too early they forget, too disconnected they can't get it, too late it is obvious and too much it is heavy handed.  It has to be just right for your readers.  Write for who you imagine them to be and what they like.

Justina then came back to narrative grammar and casual connections.  We accept they might do on context of what we've seen, e.g. if something changes, we know.  Switchbacks and revelations need anchors to tie it as you go along and an anchor can be where or when we are in a scene, or reordering events to connections are more obvious, finding deeper meaning as the story unfolds.

Map with important milestones and realise the end is not as easy as you thought at the beginning.  Journey of characters and what it all means.

Narrative time - order of events (secret) in time but don't have to tell them in order.

For more information on Justina Robson and her writing:

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