Today’s guest is David Bruns, the creator of the sci-fi series The Dream Guild Chronicles and one half of the Two Navy Guys and a Novel blog series about co-writing a military thriller. His latest novel is Weapons of Mass Deception, a story of modern-day nuclear terrorism that could be ripped from today’s headlines. David is a graduate of the United States Naval Academy, and he served six years as a commissioned officer in the nuclear-powered submarine force. After twenty years in the high-tech private sector, he traded in his frequent flyer cards for a career in writing.
Writer Unboxed is about the craft of fiction and my post is about the craft lessons I learned from attending a StoryMasters workshop. I approached WU first because of your connection with Don Maass. My hope is that other writers will be encouraged to use workshops as a way to hone their writing skills.
6 Writing Techniques I Learned at Storymasters
Sometimes you just need to jump into the deep end of the pool. Take, for example, my New Year’s writing goal to attend a craft workshop. When the opportunity to attend StoryMasters in February came up on my radar screen, I decided to knock out one of my 2015 goals early in the year.[pullquote]StoryMasters is a 4-day intensive seminar on the craft of writing co-taught by Chris Vogler, James Scott Bell, and Don Maass, all well-respected teachers in the fiction writing community. [/pullquote]
StoryMasters is a 4-day intensive seminar on the craft of writing co-taught by Chris Vogler, James Scott Bell, and Don Maass, all well-respected teachers in the fiction writing community. Using complementary teaching and story-building techniques, the three “masters” each shared an entire day with us. Here’s a sampling of what I learned.
1. Every scene is a transaction. We’re taught to think of scenes as conflict, but Chris Vogler suggested we approach each scene as a deal. Character A wants something from Character B–how will she get it? Deceit? Bribery? Pleading? Then, as any salesman worth his salt will tell you: when you get to “yes,” end the meeting! Don’t let the scene drag on. Bonus tip: cut the last 2-3 lines from your scene to see if you can also end it with an increased sense of “what happens next?”
2. “A story is a conspiracy to teach a lesson.” I liked this Chris Vogler quote so much it now occupies a spot on my wall. Audiences come for the thrills (the external story), but they stay for the moral lesson (the inner journey). Give the people what they want.
3. The Mirror Moment. A few weeks ago, as I was revising my own novel, I had a character that just would not cooperate. A writer friend read the manuscript and pointed out to me that my character lacked a “turning point.” It was true. I had done some great buildup and resolved things at the end, but completely missed the scene where she faces herself and makes the decision to change. In his book, Write Your Novel From the Middle, James Scott Bell makes the argument that the “mirror moment” [Read more…]