The BASICS (3rd version by Plesko)
Character drives plot and not the other way around. There are no original plots. Readers don’t care about plot as much as they care about who the plot is happening to.
Everything you’ve ever read before in the same words is a cliché. Take them out.
A good story makes us want to know what happens next. Characters have to overcome something, and something needs to be at stake.
There is no such thing as a neutral description. Think of the way your characters see the world, not how it might look “objectively.” There is no objective world view.
Dialogue isn’t merely conversation, not “hi, how are you, how are the kids.” Dialogue implies conflict between characters and isn’t a device merely for giving information. Dialogue should combine speech, gesture, action, observation of the world, and thought.
You cannot hold back drama for later. There is no later. Every scene must be dramatic in its own right. If you “save it for later,” there’ll be no later, the reader will have stopped reading by then.
don’t read, listen
If you think about it, you look at words with your eyes, but really you hear them in your head as you read, so you want to be writing for the ear, not the eye. Read your stuff out loud to yourself.
You can’t memorize a grammar book, so learn how to trust your ears. Read your stuff out loud. If it sounds wrong, it is.
Writing is mostly editing. If you’re just writing any old thing, you’re not writing, just typing. Writing is a craft. Words are your tools. Learn how to use them.
how can you tell if it’s any good?
Ask yourself this question: If I was the reader reading this, would I want to read it? If your answer is no, then rewrite it ‘till you would like to read it. (“Good enough” doesn’t equal good.)
where to begin?
Start with a picture, somebody somewhere. Or at a place. Some action. Anything but explanation or “background.”
how will I get through it all?
Think in scenes. All stories and novels are made up of scenes. A good way to write toward a complete work is by writing scenes where one specific thing happens. In a first draft, you don’t need to worry about connecting your scenes. There’s no point in trying to assemble the puzzle before you have all the pieces.
show don’t tell
You’ve heard it before and it’s true: show don’t tell, show don’t tell, show don’t tell. The reader wants to SEE the novel, not be told about it.
What is a voice? It’s your style. It’s the way you sound on the page. A strong voice trumps all writing rules of everything.
Syllabi (C’mon, who doesn’t love that word?)
Novel I Winter 2004 Syllabus
Novel II Summer 2004 Syllabus
Novel III Spring 2004 Syllabus
Novel V Syllabus
Advanced Seminar Syllabus
Tricks and Treats interview and Syllabus