Thursday, May 10, 2012

Reviewing the Crime Writers of Canada event

Saturday, May 5th writers gathered at the Victoria Public library. This free annual event is organzied and funded through the Crime Writers of Canada

Offering you a small taste of the discussion…

Character Building From the Ground Up

Moderator asks:  Do your characters have to be likable?

Panellist answers:  That depends on genre. If you’re writing a cozy mystery, readers want to read about a likable character. However, in noir it depends. You have the freedom to develop a more complex character. My own characters are likable but they do have flaws.

How to Avoid Plotting Problems

Moderator asks:  How do you avoid information dumps?

Panellist answers:  You have to read your manuscript carefully—or better still have someone else read it. Know the difference between fiction and non-fiction. If your story is sounding more and more like non-fiction then you have a problem. A way to avoid information dumps and still convey the information you need to convey is to introduce a character that needs to acquire the information.

 How to Sustain a Series

Moderator asks:  If given a choice, what would a publisher be more interested in—a stand-alone or a series?

Panellist answers:  A series. If it’s your first book, publishers like shorter novels (65, 000 words).

Interactive Workshop

Points made:
-Reverse your reading so that you know it well.
-Use index cards and have no more than 20 words per card
-Read from the book. This way the listener will get to associate the words with the cover.

Inside the mind of a panellist

How soon should I go and sit down? What about now? Oh, I’m so excited. Boy things sure look different from up here. There sure are a lot of people here. They’ve all come to receive information and inspiration. I can deliver. I hope I don’t disappoint them. Why was I the first one to sit down? I look like such an eager beaver. Is there anything wrong with that? Yes. No. Maybe. Yes. No.  (Others find their seats). I did pick a good spot. (The moderator is to the far left. My fellow panellists flank me—on both sides). I’m in the middle. Is this really a good spot? Who remembers what the person in the middle said? Would I rather be first? Gosh, no. Would I rather be last? Gosh, no. So be happy that I am where I am. I wonder what questions the moderator will ask us? Will I be able to answer them? I hope so. I hope I don’t look like a clown. I hope everyone laughs at my jokes. I hope the research I’ve done and the notes I’ve taken have prepared me. What if I freeze and I can’t think of anything to say—not a thing. Will the moderator just sit there staring at me—for what feels like hours of awkward silence? Boy, I hope not. I’ve got to be ready. I have to prove to everyone—including me—that I have a right to sit up here. I’ve got to be ready. (The moderator asks a question) That’s a good question. I never even thought of that question. I-never-even-thought-of-that-question. What do I say? Think. Quickly. Oh. Yes. That’s brilliant. (The first panellist answers the question. She says exactly what I was about to say and then adds a point, I didn’t even consider.) Wow, that was good. I’m so impressed by her. But now what do I do? What do I say? (I say, “ditto.” Everyone laughs. Their response makes this far less scary. I add a point and watch people take notes.) Well done, Leanne. I’m so proud of you! You did it. Yes, but just because I feel that way doesn’t mean it’s a law. Writing is so subjective. I hope they know that. I hope they know that they can do, think, act differently—and that it’s not wrong. I mean who am I? I’m just another writer. (The last panellist answers. His answer is polar opposite than mine.) Oh, good that’s prefect. Now they know there’s no one right answer. But wait, he’s been writing a lot longer than I have and he’s written more books. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I need to change my ways. Maybe… (The moderator asks me the question—first.) Hey, that’s not fair. I sat down in the middle for a reason—to give me time to think. She can’t ask me the question first. But she just did. And now what do I do? Everyone’s waiting. The crickets are creeping. Everyone’s staring at me. My palms are sweating. Come on. You can do this. Think. Oh, yes. Of course. (“That’s a good question,” I say. “I think…” Pens click. Notes are taken.) I’m so brilliant. But wait. Did I actually answer the question I was asked? I hope so. (The moderator asks another question.) What a great question. I really feel strong about that. (I dive in and answer.) Oh, no, it wasn’t my turn. (My face turns a bright shade of red.) That’s okay. It just meant that I’m human, that I’m engaged, that I’m an eager beaver. Is there anything wrong with that? Yes. No. Maybe. Oh, I don’t know. (The moderator thanks everyone for participating.) Wait, it can’t be over—not yet. I mean we barely sat down. I have lots more to…

Next post (Friday):  Please welcome Author Bob Friedland