Ad Astra 2015 day 1: Arrival and Julie Czerneda workshop


The Ad Astra 2015 reportage starts now!

This year, I managed to find the Sheraton without too much difficulty (yay me). I can be Google Maps challenged at the most inconvenient times, especially when GM wants to send me on the 407 (I am toll route averse) or tells me to pull a u-turn when I don’t see the need for it 😛

Still, I just—just—got checked in to my room in time to run back down and into the workshop.

Julie Czerneda’s workshop was entitled It only hurts when I write: Destroying your story gremlins.

After a brief round of introductions, we got to work. Julie asked us to work in pairs and assigned us a series of writing tasks. The focus on the workshop was to solve the gremlins that many writers experience. The main gremlin was the blank page, or not knowing what to write/how to come up with story ideas.*

  1. Using a grid, storyboard a plot with a beginning, middle, and end (plot emphasis).
  2. Using a grid and a character card prompt, storyboard a plot with a beginning, middle, and an end (character emphasis).

After each exercise, each group shared the results of their efforts.

There was a brief break and then we reconvened for the second half of the workshop.

In the second half, Julie handed out a story worksheet to each pair. We were to fill out the worksheet with the following information: Story idea, Protagonist, Setting, Type of story, Format of story, Readership for this story, and what Feeling we wanted the reader to respond with.

Once the worksheet was completed, Julie handed out cards that added completely random items to the story. My partner and I received these three: What this story needs is a cat; Add an hilarious death; and Rewrite as a comedy.

Considering that I’d elected to fill out the worksheet using my main WIP, Initiate of Stone, a darkish epic fantasy, the cards actually threw three rather large wrenches into the gears.

The point of these wrenches was to concretely prove that we can change our stories, sometimes to good effect, on a dime and at the request of someone else. It teaches you to relinquish control, release from attachment, and may serve you well if/when an editor wants you to make changes your story.

It was a bit of a light bulb moment for me. I learned that I had, to a degree, achieved a certain amount of detachment from IoS. It’s a novel, not one of my vital organs.

Though I think if anyone actually asked me to rewrite IoS as a comedy, I would refuse. Categorically, even.

Overall, it was an enjoyable workshop.

Julie Czerneda

*I walked into the workshop thinking that we were going to be working with our actual story gremlins, as in the problems we are experiencing with our WIPs. It took me a few minutes to get over my disappointment that I was not going to get help with the opening of IoS. I was motivated, as ever, to learn, though, and so I did 🙂

There you have it.

Next week: Deconstructing tropes 🙂 Yes, we had all the fun! Really. I like this kind of thing 🙂

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