Paul’s Story Trigonometry (Part 2)

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Paul’s Story Trigonometry (Part 1)

A little while back I presented an interesting model to help writers understand the central conflict in a story. I’ve since expanded upon the model and presented it as a blog post for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) Germany / Austria. The post includes two different models:

  1. central conflict, two main characters
  2. central conflict, multiple main characters

I personally find these models very useful for critically reflecting upon an early draft, thereby paving the way for a strong rewrite. You might find the models useful too. Here’s the link to the post at SCBWI Germany / Austria.

January 2018 Update

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Scoop Magazine Issue 14

Back from Australia, fully recharged (I’m solar powered) and bravely facing down the remains of a bleak Vienna winter, I thought I’d share a few updates:

Story Publication

My latest short story, Shadow Town has just been released in Scoop Magazine (issue 14) in the UK. A copy should arrive in the mail any day now. Here’s the link to Scoop Magazine.

Australian stories

Two books on my recent holiday reading list:

  • The Blue Cat by Ursula Dubosarsky
  • Nevermoor by debut Australian novelist Jessica Townsend

Both wonderful middle-grade novels.

Discovering Treasure

In a second-hand bookshop in Victor Harbor, South Australia, I discovered a hardcover of an Australian classic, The Nimbin by Jenny Wagner. Now out of print, an entire Australian generation still remembers it. At every book shop I asked after The Nimbin (it was hard to find), people browsing near the counter looked over and said, “Oh, I remember that book. I loved it!”

Why was The Nimbin so loved? What makes it so special? And why the heck is it out of print?! I’ll reread The Nimbin this February and unlock its secrets from a writer’s perspective.

 “How to Write a Short Story” Workshop

I ran this fun workshop last week at The Vienna Workshop Gallery. A vibrant mix of participants, many with an international background. Together we read and discussed, “Cat Person” by Kristen Roupenian as found in The New Yorker December 11, 2017. You can read it here.

We then went on to look at what makes a good story, and applied this understanding to collectively lay the canvas for a story with a title drawn by our fun word lottery:

Pride Tears Lavender Left

Here’s our story logline:

A narcissistic inventor of make-up colour names must face the harsh reality he is not his deceased friend’s only best friend.

The story opens at the funeral. Lavender (the narcissist) is the protagonist. Every participant in the group went on to write their own story openings.

At the end of the workshop, each person then set out to write their own stories. I wish them all every success. At least one or two participants may go on to do the 6-Week Short Story Program.

YA Novel Writing Workshop with Keith Gray

Good friends at Write Now offered this wonderful writing workshop run by award-winning YA novelist, Keith Gray. I came away with some fantastic insights and the inspiration to finally start writing my novel. Keith has another workshop coming up in February. Check out the Write Now website for more details.

Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) Austria Meet Up

One coming up! If you’re interested in writing or illustrating for children or young adults, perhaps you’d like to attend. Where to register: Meet Up

My own writing projects for 2018

  • A middle-grade novel. Writing has begun (Many thanks, Keith!)
  • A few short stories, including a couple to connect with the themes sought by The School Magazine. More about what they need here: The School Magazine writers guidelines
  • Another writing project…top secret at this stage
  • A few more story publications are on the horizon!

Open Mic

The next open mic at Cafe Korb in Vienna is only a few weeks away (Thurs, Feb 15). If you’d like to attend, here’s where to register.

Creative Writing on the Go Workshops

They’re up on the website. The creative writing and short story programs are starting in the next few weeks. As always, I am very excited to be running these. I hope to see you there!

Creative Writing News!

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We love creative writing!

The autumn 2017 creative writing program is up! Check out the website for details. The new short story program is now 5 weeks (instead of 4) and includes three group sessions at The Praxis Wien. I’m also running a 4-week creative writing program at The Vienna Workshop Gallery. A creative writing program for young people (11 to 16 years) will also start later this year. And the popular Creative Cafe sessions will also return at Praxis Wien 5 in October.

Creative Writing “Schnuppertag”

If you think you might be interested in creative writing, but would like to have dabble in it before committing, why not come to the Creative Writing Schnuppertag:

Location:                     The Vienna Workshop Gallery

Laudongasse 9, 1080, Vienna

When:                           Friday 1st September 2017

Time:                         19:00 – 21:00 (16 + years)

Price:                             Free!

10.08.2017: The creative writing Schnuppertag is now full. 

I hope to see you at a creative writing workshop this autumn.

 

A Story Seed (how to write a powerful story)

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A Story Seed

A story seed,

contains everything needed,

to reach like a mighty redwood,

for the sun.

***

With space to breathe,

on the fertile soil of the page,

flowing like a mountain stream from the pen,

in the sunshine of the imagination,

a story comes to life.

 

Where do you get such story seeds? Certainly not at the local nursery. And, despite what people might have heard, a story seed is not merely an idea.

One great place to discover a story seed is in your memory

A story seed can be yielded from the fruits of rich experience. They can arise through potent memories. They might not be imbued with vivid detail, but they are underlain with strong feeling. Out of curiosity, a strong desire to understand this feeling, the writer sets their pen to the page. And so the story begins.

 

Outer world / Inner world–an original approach to writing immersive scenes

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No doubt you’ve been drilled on the writer’s axiom: Show, don’t tell. And I’m sure you’re well-versed on how to write richly immersive scenes using the palette of senses. But I bet you’ve never heard of the “Outer world / Inner world” approach to writing scenes. Or if you have, then it’s because you discussed it with me—the originator!

The outer world / inner world approach to writing a scene is included in the creative writing exercises I hand out in the writing boot camps. I thought it’s time to share the secret with you:

The Outer World / Inner World Approach

outer-inner

POV focus

In the above “Outer World / Inner World” diagram, a shift in focus within the same point of view (POV) is shown. On the left hand side of the diagram the narrative is focused on the outer world (the inner world is peripheral). As the narrative progresses the focus makes a transition to the inner world (the outer world becomes peripheral).

The outer world (sensory)

The outer world is sensory—felt through the senses relating to sight, sound, hearing, touch, and taste. With an outer world focus, the narrative unfolds in the form of a scene from the chosen POV. The scene is immersive (using the varied senses).

 Inner world (mental)

The inner world contains perceptions, mental feelings, dispositions, thoughts, memories, intentions, states of mind, consciousness. In this inner world the POV character seeks to make sense of their situation. In a story (and in life in a far less coherent way), the POV character seeks happiness / a release from suffering through the pursuit of any one or all of three desires: to have, to become, to be freed from. In short, the POV character is motivated to overcome something.

Transition

Transitions are triggered by feelings arising from a “significant” event in the POV character’s outer- or inner world. The POV perceives something significant in either world, drawing them in. These transitions might also be considered the story’s silver thread weaving these worlds together.

A transition that is not triggered by feeling will have an incidental feel about it—the author groping about in the dark or attempting to adhere to a preconceived plot.

Story magic

A story may unfold in a sequence of these “outer world / inner world” events. The reader becomes immersed in both worlds, enjoying each transition because it is underlain by feeling, and because the reader attains a pleasing sense that there is no real boundary between the outer and inner world—both are dependent on the other. In this way too, the boundary between the reader the story on the page disappears—this is the magic of a story.

Example

(Outer): Manu steered the stolen motorbike through the rain and silty puddles along the road’s narrow shoulder. He passed gridlocked vehicles idling, trucks belching out fumes. The motorbike’s rumbling motor was warm comfort against the insides of his legs while the rest of him shivered. (Transition): He caught glimpses of impatient motorists, stuck, angry, cursing him it seemed, in their steel cocoons as he motored past. (Inner) To hell with them! His lips tightened as he thought about the wad of stolen money and gun in his backpack. He thought of Rita—how she would be waiting for him at the hotel. (Transition) Tonight, he decided, opening up the motorbike’s throttle, couldn’t come fast enough.

 Now it’s your turn!

Now you have the outer world / inner world approach and an example, why not give it a try for yourself. I wish every success!

How to write a group story

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Community Teamwork Together Group Team Motivation

At the January short story boot camp kick-off session in Vienna, a group of motivated writers developed a humorous team story, starting out with nothing more than their chosen title (Creative Sneezing*) and a few literary constraints. Through group discussion, characters came to life, their situation became clear, a setting drew into focus. In no time each person was able to write their own take of the story opening.

Although there were many minds behind the inception of the one story, the creative process was essentially the same as that undertaken by an individual:

A story might be explored within such boundaries or constraints as mentioned above, perhaps starting with a character or a feeling or a situation—with whatever inspired the writing. The writer fields questions to the imagination (Who is this story about?) and writes a response (Charlie, whose every sneezes brings a revelation!).

This exploration may progress through writing the story itself—allowing ideas to coalesce along the way, or through taking notes at the outset until the story feels pinned down. I suggest the second method can save considerable time. This is not to advocate knowing everything  about  the story at the beginning (a strongly plotted story); rather, to establish the basis from which a memorable story might evolve.

More on the January boot camp and the team of talented writers to follow!

If you missed out on the January short story boot camp but would like to participate next time, please check out the short story boot camp page for more details. Next boot camp in Vienna: May 2017. I’d love to see you there!

* Many thanks to Petra for coming up with the story title as part of her creative writing exercises in preparation for the boot camp