Sunday, August 1, 2010

Gail Carson Levine: Sweat and Magic

Although the title of Gail Carson Levine's talk is called Sweat and Magic, she will mostly be talking about sweat.

Gail has been writing her blog on writing for over a year. Her most frequent note about writing is, "I don't know what I'm doing."

"I get very stupid when I write."

"There is so much that is possible." If you're writing story that doesn't follow a traditional story arch, Gail believes you can make it work.

She likes to make lists, and suggests you might try to. "When you make a list, no idea is stupid."

Usually plot arises out of situation. Watch people and see this in action. "We all create plot as we all create our lives. So it's worth observing ourselves and the people we know."

Suspense Builders:
-Time "When you have time pressure in a book it's wonderful."
-Distance, Distance can operate a lot like time.
-Thoughts, "If you character is worried, your reader will be worried."
-Separation, from the problem
-Main character flaw
-Secondary character flaw
-Expectation, could be good or bad
-A test or a trial
-Something lost

Prompt: As you go through the rest of the day, think of ways, wherever you are, that something tense could happen. Write about it.

"When we reread a book, it's totally predictable, but we love it anyway."

How to surprise:
-confound expectation
-surprise yourself
-ask your characters
-make a list!
-avoid easy morals
-workshop it

Prompt: Create a distaster by having one character ask another about his thoughts at that moment.

Character Development

Gail's characters don't arrive whole and fully formed. She must be with them for a while before they are fully developed. She discovers it through dialogue and action as she wings it. "It’s kind of existential. We become ourselves through our acts and so do our characters."

Gail recommends the book WHAT IF: by Anne Bernays and Pamela Painters which has a character questionnaire she uses throughout the writing process.

It's wonderful to listen for speech mannerisms.

Prompt: Three characters getting ready for school. How does each one prepare? Reveal the thoughts and feelings of each, and each should be different.

Mean Prompt: Pick out a passage or scene from a book you dislike and rewrite it.

Gail Carson Levine has written seventeen books for children. She's also written a book on writing, WRITING MAGIC.

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