Sunday, July 24, 2011

Margie Lawson's Empowering Characters' Emotions Workshop

Margie and Me
I am still processing all the information I received yesterday in Margie Lawson's Empowering Characters' Emotions workshop, hosted by Southern Magic Romance Writers

As I mentioned in my blog post yesterday, this workshop was exactly what I needed, exactly when I needed it. Margie shared her EDITS system, showing us how to analyze each scene of our works in progress so that we can clearly see what is there and - more important - what is missing.  Next, she gave us guidelines for assessing the complexity of emotional passages and suggestions for how to pump them up when called for. Last, she offered tips for writing dialogue cues to add psychological power to our work.

She shared countless examples of good writing and held our hands as we worked with the printed chapters of our own projects we had brought with us. It soon became clear to me that I am really not at the revision stage yet; I am still writing my first draft. But when it is finished - and I am holding myself to my August 15th deadline, requiring me to write about 2000 words per day - I feel I have the tools I need to start taking this manuscript to the next level. And I am really, really looking forward to it.

Margie recommended several resources, which I intend to add to my library - and read! - asap.
  • Dwight Swain: Techniques of the Selling Writer
  • James Scott Bell: Plot & Structure; Revision & Self-Editing
  • Donald Maass how-to books
She also offers online courses and lecture packets on her website. This was my first Margie workshop, but it definitely won't be my last.

* * * * *

My brain was too fried by the time I made the drive home from Birmingham to do any writing last night. But I went into the garage and dug through a big plastic bin filled with the journals and notebooks I have kept over the past ten years and pulled out those containing lists of books read and favorite quotes. Then I put on my jammies, poured myself a cup of tea and dug in, looking for passages that resonated with me long before I decided to take the plunge into novel writing myself. Here is one of my favorites.

Left to its own devices, her mind is a fat hummingbird flitting through leafy trees of anxiety, apology, sorrow, excuses, and dreams of grandeur, dreams of humiliation. Sometimes she watches it run off, and it makes her laugh and shake her head. It's like a video game. Bright fast blips of worry and anger come at her, and after fending them off, she's attacked by the huge lumbering Czechoslovakian blogs of tiredness and broken-spiritedness which breaks into small, faster missiles of regret when she fires at them. "What a half-baked species we are," she thinks, and does what she can to make her insides more habitable.
~ From Joe Jones by Anne Lamott

That paragraph still brings tears to my eyes. Because that's the kind of writer I so desperately want to be.

Fellow writers, who are your literary role models? Are there any craft books that you have found to be particularly helpful? Fellow readers, who are your favorite authors and why?


Denise said...

Steinbeck always brings me to my knees. So simple yet right to the essence. “His hands came into play like twin moths, restrained only by his wrists and arms from flying out the door.” Tortilla Flats

Christine said...

The workshop was amazing. I have all the books she recommended except Dwight Swain's book. I have tons of books that she didn't recommend. Some were helpful and others not so much. I feel that Margie's workshop and lecture packet gave me the last piece in the writing puzzle that I needed to take my writing to the next level. She taught me what to look for--and that's huge!! I'm raring to go as well.

I know you will reach your goal. Keep me posted :-)

Pam Asberry said...

Great quote, Denise. That's the kind of writing Margie calls "NYT" (New York Times). Duh. ;-)

Pam Asberry said...

Christine, I had "Plot & Structure" and one of Donald Maass's books but not "Self-Editing and Revision." But I ordered it from Amazon last night and will have it by the end of the week. Like you, I own a lot of great books on craft but I haven't read most of them. I wish I could just put them under my pillow at night and absorb them through osmosis - ha! Your puzzle analogy is spot-on. This was the piece I needed right now, too. Thank you for your great advice and all you encouragement. Knowing you are out there cheering me on will definitely help as I keep slogging towards my deadline!

Julee J. Adams said...

Sounds like a super workshop and I'm so glad you got to go! I helped run our local writers guild for over fifteen years and would shiver with excitement when we had a really great speaker. I too wrote down particularly moving passages from books in my journals.
The book that had my emotions engaged the most over the past ten years is Elizabeth Edwards' Resilience: Reflections on the Burdens and Gifts of Facing Life's Adversities. I sat in my office reading it for a class on dealing with change and sobbed, she evoked such images with her words. After all, that's what we want, isn't it? To make our characters feel real? Keep working, throwing obstacles in the way of your characters and then giving a hand to them to make them better on their journey.

Pam Asberry said...

Julee, that sounds like a great book; I will have to check it out. And you're absolutely right about throwing obstacles in the way of our characters. I get attached to mine and don't want anything bad to happen to them. But that makes for a boring book! :-)