Nov 8, 2010

Paulann Petersen and Showing Blue Moons

It was a very lovely literary weekend here in Bend, OR. Thanks to the hard work of the folks who put on The Nature of Words  literary festival. This was the 6th year for the event and my third year attending.

The first year, I attended a class given by Ursula K. Le Guinn. Wonderful as she confirmed my suspicion that I am indeed a writer. Last year I attended a workshop with Jane Kirkpatrick on history, research and writing, which was a real pleasure. History and research are fun for me. She is a fabulous lady who I enjoyed meeting and learning from. I also attended 2nd Sunday for the first time ever last year. I chickened out on reading last November, but went back in the following months and got over my lack of courage.

This year I attended a workshop with Hilary Jordon on showing not telling - more on that in a bit. And I attended 2nd Sunday. We were graced by Paulann Peterson, Oregon's poet laureate, reading. Wow. What a treat to hear her read. Want to open your mind and soul? Read some of her work and if you get the chance, hear her read. Her stuff on cosmology really spoke to me. Shocker, huh?

All my practice all these months paid off as I read my best ever in front of the biggest audience ever. I read my unpublished flash fiction piece, Blue Moon. It's a fantasy about a woman in France weaving for her lost love. Yes, under a blue moon. I may have mangled some of the French I infused into the piece, but I had the pacing down, inunciation, volume and inflection. FYI a blue moon is a second full moon in the same month. It happens about every 2.5-3 years.

Poetry is a great exercise in showing not telling. Honest. I don't write it much in its pure form any more, but I sure do draw from it in the revision process of my writing. It's a way of describing something in a non-straightforward way. It's a way of painting a portrait and character which invests the reader into the tale.

So here's a couple of exercises to connect yourself with your characters on a deeper level. What you end up using in your final work is up to you.

1.  What are three adjectives that most define your character? [One phyisical attribute and 2 traits]. Describe your character without ever using those adjectives or any others. Draw a portrait of your character that conveys those traits without ever saying them.

2.  Describe your character's room / office / personal space. Again using three adjectives that describe your character. How can you use your character's space to define those attributes without ever saying them? Pretend you are an outside observer who has never met your character. Draw no conclusions about your room or character in the description.

When your character confronts something powerful in which he/she should have a powerful reaction, what a perfect place to show and not tell. To immerse your reader into the character's world and emotions.

It's a powerful tool in the writer's arsenal. A great one to practice and perfect.

How was your weekend? How are your goals coming along?