Welcome to Monday! My favorite day of the week, a new start, a fresh start! All errors and mistakes are so last week! This week I am blogging about the story, often lost in a book, movie or play: –the story!
As a poet, I can get lost in a handful of words, it’s as much fun as a sudoku puzzle or baking the perfect baguette. As a writer of fiction, sometimes, out of the blue I find myself floundering, I don’t have a writer’s block, worse I go off on tangents. I was listening to Ann Dillard’s book, The Writer’s Life and she said these moments often mean the story broke, either you have gone off path or you’ve wandered onto the wrong path –your outline needs to be rewritten. As Lisa Cron says in her Craft of Story class on Lynda.com without the story, all the pretty words are just surface without structure and doomed to fall.
It’s like frosting a cake you haven’t baked yet. –Lisa Cron
There came a day in my life when I thought one more sequence of DNA was going to break my soul’s back. I took the plunge and left. I took my benefits and bought a computer. I wasn’t sure where my path would take me but I was willing to trust in the path being there. I wanted the opportunity to try graphic design, with training books and online classes offered by the original web goddess, Lynda Weinman aka lynda.com. My goal was to earn money from home, so I could write and paint. I still dabble in design, just enough to get into trouble. Look at any of my sites and you’re sure to find few broken, crippled pages that crashed when a scathingly brilliant idea or line of dialogue interrupted my work.
Needless to say, I was surprised to see in my latest email newsletter from Lynda.com that there was a Writing Class ‘The Craft of Story’ by Lisa Cron. First, I googled her to make sure it wasn’t about writing copy for web sites. If you think designing web sites from scratch is hard, you’re wrong -it’s getting content from the Clients. One Auto Parts Client’s resistance was because he was drafting an About Us page which turned out to be a 2,500 word tome on his life that started with high school football, goat farming, mortgage seller to car parts with several messy divorces mixed in -I discovered not all life-stories are worth the bytes with which they are written! Anyway Lisa Cron is the author of Wired for Story: The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence.
Her lynda.com bio:
Lisa Cron is a writing instructor, story consultant, and author. She’s spent a decade in publishing, and has been a literary agent, television producer, and story analyst for Hollywood studios. She teaches in the world-renowned UCLA Extension Writers’ Program, and works as a consultant helping writers, nonprofits and entrepreneurs wrangle the story they’re telling onto the page. She’s the author of Wired for Story: The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers From the Very First Sentence. Lisa can be found at www.wiredforstory.com.
I am a firm believer in serendipity, but it only works for me if I am on my life’s path. Opportunity did not fall into my lap when I was sequencing DNA, designing web sites or doing Spanish Textbook typography. Serendipity only graces me with her presence when I am painting or writing and lately writing. I paint in wax, so my dog stealing a block of beeswax was akin to serendipity stealing my paintbrush! So, I’ve been watching the class and have now ordered the book. The online class is a stand alone of a dozen sections, each divided into 3 parts: Explanation, Example and Story Check. First Lisa explains the concept and then in the Example we watch a writer actually write a bit of prose, the student is asked to also write a bit of prose, then story check. Using the example Lisa dissects and corrects the passage. The class is structured on the story, which she reminds us, is vital regardless of how brilliant your pretty prose. Like she says, without a strong story: It’s like frosting a cake you haven’t baked yet.
The class covers:
1. What Is a Story?
2. Hooking Your Reader
3. All Stories Make a Point
4. Feeling What the Protagonist Feels
5. All Protagonists Have a Goal
6. Uncovering Your Protagonist’s Inner Issue
7. Being Specific Rather than Vague
8. Suspense and Conflict
9. Cause and Effect
10. What Can Go Wrong, Must
11. Setups, Payoffs, and the Clues in Between
12. Flashbacks, Subplots, and Foreshadowing
The class reminded me of a critique Robert Bausch made about one of my poems. I took his Creative Writing classes years ago. It was just as his first book was accepted and an exciting time for the group. He would take our writing and read it aloud and the class would critique without knowing who wrote what. After reading a poem, of which I was particularly proud and had worked very hard, he told the class that it was a lovely onion, with layer after layer of exquisite metaphors but in the center, nothing. Sadly, I thought this was a positive critique. My only argument was I was the caretaker of a husband who was dying of a very slow brain tumor and I think my life was that onion… day after day of exquisite metaphor. It took me a lifetime to discover that life has a core as does writing. It is the story.
I recommend the class. For those unfamiliar with lynda.com, it is simpler than falling off a horse. You register and are billed $25 a month for as long as you keep your account active. During that month you have access to all her classes, so after the Lisa Cro class, you can slip in a class on MicroSoft Word, WordPress or even an iPhone class. Before your month ends you simple pause your membership and you won’t be billed until you reactivate. I’ve been using her classes, dvd’s or books since 1995!
So, whether you buy the book or watch the class, I think you’ll find the subject worthwhile.