By Charles Senseman
An abundance of learning opportunities for writers makes Colorado unique within the Rocky Mountain region. On April 24th-26th, I attended the 23rd Pikes Peak Writers Conference, in Colorado Springs.
Among the classes I attended, I found Alex Kourvo’s session on Exploding Plot Points particularly useful in providing focus and clarity for plotting a novel. She emphasized that:
- protagonists must have active goals and that simply surviving is not among them.
- As part of the plot arc, the climax should include a gathering of the team, tools, and plans
- carrying out those plans
- a twist that makes the plan fail
- the failure requires the protagonist to dig deep and make a leap of faith
- The protagonist uses that leap to execute a new plan
- And to make sure a plot moves forward, not sideways, include mixed emotions, conflicts of interest, and unexpected consequences.
In her session, The Top Ten Storytelling Devices Movies Can Teach Fiction Writers, Trai Cartwright drove home the importance of false resolution as well. She did an outstanding job explaining interactions between protagonists, antagonists, and their world.
- The Hero must have the unique skills to solve the defined problem.
- The world around the hero needs to mirror internal conflicts.
- The villain must be more powerful than the hero, but bad guys are never as big an obstacle as the hero is to self. This gives the opportunity to overcome a fatal flaw.
Rod Miller taught that good writing is good writing in Seven Things You Need To Know To Write Like A Poet. He showed how some of the best writers employ techniques utilized by poets to make fiction more elegant, whether literary or commercial. His insights gave confidence to many in the room who struggled with the desire to write rich prose in an industry that sometimes favors dumbing-down to the reader.
R.L. Stine provided the conference high when he read letters from his young Goosebumps fans. Had he not been a successful author, he certainly could have succeeded as a stand-up comedian.