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Thursday, February 9, 2012

Creative Writing Fundamentals

Yesterday, I went to a writing workshop at the Shakespeare and Company. Just being there feels like being in the company of great minds of the last century. It was cool! The workshop was given by Fred Leebron who was very patient with me:-). Following are my random notes: 

1. Most dramas follow the Freytag's Pyramid structure. According to Freytag, drama is divided into five parts: 

i) Exposition 
ii) Rising Action
iii) Climax 
iv) Falling Action 
v) Denouncement 

2. A good drama always has conflict. There are four types of conflicts: 

i) Character vs Self (internal conflict) 
ii) Character vs Others 
iii) Character vs Nature 
iv) Character vs World 

3. A good drama always has something at stake. That something could be: 

i) Birth 
ii) Love
iii) Death 
iv) Friendship
v) Family 
vi) Money
vii) Liberty 
viii) Spirituality 
ix) Identity 

4. All good writing starts with Technique that leads to Content and that leads to Meaning

5. There are various attributes of Technique. Segmentation is the first one. The writers think how the work breaks apart with: 

i) Letters 
ii) Words (what is the right word, what word you choose to begin and end a paragraph) 
iii) Clause 
iv) Sentence (how the length varies) 
v) Paragraph (which is an emotional unit) 

6. Stage is another attribute of Technique. Where is the scene being set? Is it a pubic space or private space? How does the real world intrude? Is the character moving or at rest? Is the stage moving (plane, train, etc.)and character is at rest? 

7. Style is the third attribute of Technique. In essence, Style provides point of view choices. The movement in the story should be from: 

i) Abstract to concrete 
ii) Subjective to objective 
iii) High (elegant) to low (crude) 

8. Content is what happens in the story and what is described. How does the character think? The writers should summarize in one sentence in their heads and grow from there. The content should create sounds in the reader's head and it should create pictures in the readers head. Can you create color with words? texture? Senses? The content should create a cinematic experience in the reader's mind. 

9. Technique and Content lead to Meaning. Writers should start from a position of not knowing. Writer, reader, and the character should enter the stage together to do shared discovery of meaning which always exists at two levels- figurative and literal. 

10. Everything you write has more than one meaning. Good writing has multiple and complex meanings

11. A writer should give up the control of meaning and follow the path that leads to meaning

12. The following slide illustrates how the writer (narrative) and the reader work together: 

Transport: Reader should suspend disbelief and enter the world of the story with the character. The writer should create an illusion of progression. You can create movement with: 

i) Time
ii) Voice ( For example, angry to happy) 
iii) Content 
iv) Setting 
v) Character development 

Resonance: The ideas go beyond time. There is a sense of future beyond the end. And, for the reader, the story should go beyond reading. 

13. Treatment of Time: Field of available time in narrative is limitless. All past and future is available to the writer. Furthermore, all off-stage considerations (people other than the character) are there to play with. 

14. Narrative and Character Arcs: To the reader, it should feel like that the characters have different heartbeats. 

15. The writer's voice movement should be elastic. There should be variation by use of the first person and the third person in the narrative. No one should know where the story is going. 

16. Writers should read their work like readers i.e. without a pen. See if you can escape with the writing. 

17. Loss of Control (Climax) can be: 

i) Analytical
ii) Philosophical 
iii) Nostalgic 
iv) Enraged 

18. The summary of all plots is, "I want something that I can not have or I have something that I can not keep and other things get in the way." 

19. Writers should take risk. Following are a few ways: 

i) Shift Gender (if you write as male, write as female)
ii) Shift Genre (Poetry, fiction, drama)
iii) Shift the Design (linear, associative, memory)
iv) Shift Content (quiet, loud, sci-fi)
v) Shift Speed (slower than it happend, faster than it happened/long sentences, short sentences) 
vi) Shift Characters: 

a) Emotion 
b) Perception 
c) Intelligence 
d) Morality 

20. Write when you know that you will fail. 

21. Writing is a thread to revelation.