Remember, contests are a good way to get feedback on your writing, and hey, if you win it’s a great feather in your writing cap. Here’s a local writer’s contest that’s taking submissions right now — I should mention that I won this contest once.
Sixth Annual EPIC Writing Contest,
SEND US YOUR BEST
Contest entries are now being accepted in prose and poetry.
Prose includes any type of fiction or nonfiction.
Entries will be accepted until
Monday, April 9, 2018.
Please pursue our invitation and take the challenge.
To review the details and procedures for submitting,
go to www.epicgroupwriters.org.
You can read my winning entry The Frenchman, here if you like, and other examples of past winners. GOOD LUCK!
In addition to the Objects class I will be teaching at Edmond’s Community College this fall I will also facilitate the eight week course, Writer’s Craft Part II this year from September 21st through November 9th. I’m excited to teach this class as it encompasses everything from the Hero’s Journey to crafting that perfect first sentence. This eight week class is for all skill levels and all storytelling genres; memoir, fiction, non-fiction, short story, and screenplay. Bring your WIP (work in progress) or get inspired in class to start a new writing project. Lots of writing time, lots of critiquing, lots of creativity.
Class time structure (each week); Q & A and writing time based on individual student’s projects as seen through the lens of class material. For example, applying the Hero’s Journey or unique plot devices, developing voice, etc., to their story in progress, or the beginning of one, regardless of genre or skill level. If students want critique, there will be a workshopping schedule set for maximum 10 pages each. Weekly recommended resources and handouts.
Brief sample of class schedule:
9/21 Week One – Every Story Begins With a Journey
Identifying and finding your HERO’S JOURNEY
9/ 28 Week Two – Page One
FIRST LINES First sentences, of course, have different functions—to amuse, to frighten, to mystify—and the mechanics a writer uses to achieve this connection vary from genre to genre. We’ll do an exploration of great first lines and how knowing the hero’s journey empowers a writer to pen that first line of the journey to follow.
10/ 5 Week Three – Plot Devices (see previous post)
10/12 Week Four — Individual Writing & Open Mic Night
Focus on Student Writing – critiquing/workshopping exchange, and open mic night.
10/19 Week Five – The most dreaded word in writing, EDITING
10/26 Week Six – WHY OUTLINING MATTERS (regardless of genre)
The basics of genre; memoir, romance, mystery, thriller, horror, etc.. Also, short story, flash fiction, screenwriting…outlining matters. Outlining your novel (short story or memoir) or flying by the seat of your pants (called pantsers), and why it matters. 10 steps to follow in outlining.
11/2 Week Seven – Critique Night
11/9 Week Eight – WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED
Sign up HERE
|NEW! The Writer’s Craft Part II|
|Item: C522||Mindy Halleck|
|6:30 PM – 8:30 PM||Location: Snoqualmie Hall 205|
|Sessions: 8 Th||20000 68th Ave W Lynnwood, WA 98036|
|9/21/2017 – 11/9/2017||Fee: $175.00|
In 2011 I embarked on one of the harshest undertakings; I placed what I thought was the final draft of my novel in a drawer for one year. Why? Because, as I told others in my most knowledgeable author voice, “A writer needs distance from their material before editing and rewriting.” While that’s true, the real reason was, the story didn’t work. I thought it worked, it worked in my head, but based on a few shrewd readers it didn’t work in theirs.
During that year – fighting the wicked temptation to tweak pages, chapters and plots – I turned my attention to books on rewriting, in search of a magic key to unlock my manuscript and turn it into a novel, the kind people wanted to read. I took workshops, and reaped too many tips to list. All that matters is that nothing helped, until one day . . . .
I read yet another craft book, and SHAZAM! You know how it feels when something simple smacks you like a Mack truck of a good idea? Well, chapter 14 in the The Weekend Novelist Re-Writes the Novel by Robert J. Ray, did that for me. The ‘objects lesson’ taught me to utilize my story objects (often called plot-devices) as shorthand for backstory and eliminate a lot of dense narrative.
Finally, that magic key!
“Objects tell your story.” Ray writes. “When you rewrite your novel, you can tighten your story by repeating a single object; car, train, statue, slipper, harpoon, book. There’s a good chance the objects are already there, in your manuscript, waiting to be found, to be selected, to be repeated, to be laid down like neon breadcrumbs in the forest. Readers follow breadcrumbs.”
I began to see the power of storytelling objects everywhere. What’s Lord of the Rings without the ring, Cinderella without glass slippers, The Notebook without the book, or poor little Forest Gump without his box of chocolates?
No glass slippers, no enchanted tale, just a barefoot girl with an unfortunate name who probably does not go from rags to riches and who likely does not find her fella . . . what’s the point?
In Nicholas Spark’s novel The Notebook, that evocative leather bound book literally contains their love story. And that chocolate box on Forest Gump’s lap is a metaphor for the story to come; “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get.” And oh-boy does that plot device set up and deliver a story.
Though easily overdone, an object that’s well-crafted, or emerges organically from setting or characters can establish a character’s values and thus inform and enhance the story.
In a Willamette Writers Conference screenwriting/storytelling workshop taught by Clark Kohanek, he too touched on the objects lesson. “Think about Die Hard,” Kohanek said, “when Bruce Willis enters with the teddy bear. We immediately know that object defines what’s important to him; family.”
That fuzzy teddy bear represents Willis’s values and reenters the story burnt and dirty, but safe, like him, ready to reunite with what he values so much he’d kill for. That object represents the driving force, and heart of the story because it’s valued by the protagonist.
Eventually, in rewriting my novel, Return to Sender, the protagonist, a Korean War veteran (timely 😦 ) Theo Riley, now has a toy soldier, a stack of blood-stained returned love letters, and a photograph of Korean Orphans. This trinity of objects define him, inform his moral compass and ultimately chart his destiny. These objects give the reader an understanding of Theo on a deeper level. They are backstory shorthand, and explaining it once eliminated pages of narration, because when the reader sees the tin soldier, letters, or pictures (Neon Breadcrumbs), they remember . . . because objects are a writer’s magic keys.
If you’re a local (Seattle area) writer who is interested in delving into this I will be teaching a 5 week class at Edmonds Community College in September (into October). To sign up click here. Hope to see you in class.
Mindy Halleck is an award-winning author, blogger and writing instructor. In 2015 she won a Writer’s Digest short story contest, an Edmonds Arts Association fiction contest, and her novel, Return To Sender received the ‘Readers’ Choice’ award from Readers Favorites. Halleck blogs at Literary Liaisons and is an active member of the Pacific Northwest writing community. In addition to being a writer, Halleck is a happily married, globe-trotting beachcomber, antiquer, gardener, proud grandma, and three-time cancer survivor. www.MindyHalleck.com @MindyHalleck Mindy’s AMAZON Page
It’s writing conference season and this year I miss not being at one. I love the classes and the social get-togethers with my tribe of like-minded scribes. I’m getting tweets and other social media pings from my friends at Willamette Writers conference (wish I was there) as I did from the PNWA conference last week. Though, full disclaimer, I did go to the one day Christopher Vogler (www.thewritersjourney.com) workshop last week in Seattle which of course was great. Anyway, I’m not attending conferences this year because of several reasons but mainly I need to write. I have discovered that my novel will not write itself. Damn thing!
And though I am missing the conference reenergizing vibe, and I am getting some work done (a writer’s gotta write) I’m also prepping a new class. This year I will be teaching some ongoing writing courses at Edmonds Community College which I’m looking forward to. My 2nd class (already taught one last month) will start in September and is all about using plot devices in writing.
How Objects Help Tell a Story is a 5-week course starting Sept. 20th to Oct. 18th.
The blurb: What’s Lord of the Rings without the ring or Cinderella without her glass slippers? These iconic objects are shorthand for legendary stories that couldn’t be told without them. Well-crafted objects (plot devices) in fiction or non-fiction writing can establish a character’s values, inform their choices and actions and thus the story. Learn to create a narrative for an object in a character’s life, how that object can be backstory shorthand, enhance storytelling, help eliminate pages of narration, and tell a more layered story….
Please join me each week at Edmonds CC …to sign up please click here.
And if you’re at a writers conference this week, go ahead and tweet me, though I’m already jealous, I’m happy to live vicariously. So have fun, make great contacts and pitch your work to everyone you can. Good luck. Cheers, Mindy
Please share, tweet it out, find me at @MindyHalleck
Cool, my #Author / #writing instructor #interview w/@EdmondsCC is out, have a looksee…
Types of Heroes
(Adapted from Chris Vogler, 1999, pp. 41–44)
What kind of hero are you writing?
Willing, active, gung-ho heroes: (Tarzan, King Arthur, Luke Skywalker, Wonder-woman)
- committed to the adventure
- without doubts
- always bravely going ahead
Unwilling heroes: (Frodo Baggins, Spiderman, Han Solo)
- full of doubts
- needing to be motivated or pushed into the adventure by an outside force
- usually change at some point and become committed to the adventure
Anti-heroes: (Billy the Kid, Jack Sparo, “Bride” from Kill Bill)
- specialised kind of hero
- may be outlaws or villains from the point of view of society
- audience is in sympathy with them
- they may win in the end over society’s corruption
Tragic heroes: (Darth Vader, Brutus)
- flawed heroes
- never overcome their inner demons
- brought down and destroyed by inner demons
- may be charming
- their flaw wins in the end
Group-oriented heroes: (Nemo, Simba)
- are a part of society at the beginning
- journey takes them to unknown land far from home
- separate from group – have lone adventure in the wilderness away from the group
which they eventually rejoin
Loner heroes: (Indiana Jones, Incredible Hulk)
- story begins with hero apart from society
- natural habitat is the wilderness
- natural state is solitude
- journey is one of re-entry into the group, an adventure within the group, then a return to
Catalyst heroes: (Teacher from Dead Poets Society, any mentor)
- central figures who act heroically
- don’t change much themselves
- main function is to bring about change in others
If you liked this please tweet it out, join me at @MindyHalleck
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sign up for the Lit-Liaiz Newsletter HERE.
Often when contemplating the creation of fictional characters – what makes them do what they do, or what makes them who they truly are – I’ll watch movies or read books about damaged people, because (as we all (writers) should know) flawless characters are boring and no human makes it very far in life unblemished.
Today I watched the first movie that received high tributes for one of my favorite actors, Tom Hardy who can play anything because of the depths he is willing to go into the human psyche. Anyway, the movie is Stuart: A Life Backwards. The synopsis: A writer takes a backwards look at the life of his unlikely friend Stuart, a homeless alcoholic who experienced a traumatic event in his childhood.
I laughed, I cried and I came out of the movie with even more (if possible) admiration for my favorite actor. This movie was based on a true story. And even though it’s impossible to put mere words to the human experience that rises above verse, we as writers can aspire to hold a mirror up to our characters and reflect what we see in the world – and if we delve into our writerly craft – what they might see in the world. This character Stuart was charismatic and abhorrent at the same time – abhorrent because it can be difficult to look at the things we find disturbing; homelessness, disease, drug addiction, violence and fear. Tom Hardy danced like a skilled ballerina around each of these issues of the human condition. His (character’s) loud abrasive communications with the world were a beautiful soul-sick opera.
My head is spinning with ideas on how to write more compelling characters, characters who can dance on fire and whose hearts sing to the universe for mercy.
Oh, and if you haven’t been watching the new Tom Hardy TV series titled, Taboo (2017) you’re really missing out on some GREAT characters. Well, I’m off to create.
I just had to share this fabulous woman…In researching for the background of a (secondary) character in my WIP I stumbled onto Gertrude Bell and was gob smacked by this woman’s hootspa. She was described as an ‘outsider’, the ‘Queen of the Desert’ and ‘the most powerful woman in the British Empire in her day’. How inspirational! She was just what I was looking for. As always, it’s important to write female heroines and depict women (girls) as capable of
doing ANYTHING (and more) than their male counterparts. Thank you Wonder Woman, Senator Kamala Harris and my new favorite hero, Gertrude Bell! My protagonist grew up with a mother (1920s-30s) who traveled to Egypt and with her husband explored antiquities, pyramids and cultures of days gone by. My protagonist was a young girl when she traveled with them giving her a fascinating childhood. But then their idyllic lives were cut short when they were thrown into a concentration camp in 1939, as you can imagine. So in writing her brave mother I sought other women of that time period who traveled and explored along with their male colleagues. Why? Because the mother is the primary influence, and ultimate wound to my protagonist.
Bell (a perfect character role model) was born in County Durham in 1868, then went on to study history at Oxford. She met TE Lawrence 1909 at a dig at the ancient city of Carchemish, which would now be on the Syrian-Turkish border. Their first meeting was icy due to Victorian ‘traditions of snootiness, sexism and arrogance’ as well as Lawrence feeling ‘intimidated’ by meeting a woman who was ‘his intellectual equal’ and ‘spoke Arabic better than him’. But they became good friends. A couple years later Bell was recruited by British Intelligence during the First World War to help guide soldiers through the deserts, before being made Oriental Secretary in 1917. Even after the war she stayed on with the British Government as a diplomat helping to draw up Iraq’s borders and establish the state, and served as mediator between the Arab government in Iraq and the British officials supervising it.
Bell was far bigger than life and certainly the material of a great fiction heroin. Grateful for her journey, and grateful to have found her as my inspiration. Just had to share this remarkable woman.
You can read more about this fascinating woman here http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4428004/Incredible-life-British-adventurer-Gertrude-Bell.html
In 2015 Nicole Kidman starred in a movie about her life, Queen of The Desert http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1837636/
A 2017 documentary about her life appropriately titled, Letters From Bagdad was released this year. Take a peek here http://www.imdb.com/title/tt6086614/videoplayer/vi3633887513?ref_=tt_ov_vi
I haven’t seen either of these films but plan to.
The research aspect of writing historical fiction is a full-time job and often disregarded once the book is done. Add to that reader’s expectations have elevated, so authors are obliged to meet their escalating anticipations with additional information/entertainment. For example, with the sensitive subject matter of the holocaust in my second novel, keeping research organized and verifying facts is vital. For me that’s made easier by using virtual vision boarding on Pinterest to create story-boards, story images, park my research, and SO much more. That way I have the images and links to critical research at my fingertips for referencing later in blogging, tweeting, Facebooking and so on, utilizing my research by turning it into marketing gold. If you’re just beginning your first novel or starting your fifth novel, virtual vision boarding is a great author’s tool – for research, writing and marketing – that’s never too early or too late to utilize.
I’ll be sharing this information and more at Edmonds Community College in July. Click here to sign up for the workshop.