Taos Toolbox: Day 1

So it started today, for real. Got up at 7:00 and was in the common room by 8:00, finishing up a critique. People filtered in and we got started right on time.

Nancy talked today about writing in scenes, and the necessary elements of a scene:

  • Orientation – where, when, who
  • Purpose – advances plot, deeps characterization
  • Dramatization – dialog, action, description, thought
  • Tension – what the character wants
  • Ending

Walter discussed plot, and gave us handouts on Lester Dent’s Master Plot Formula, and Campbell’s Hero’s Journey (as examples of plots and how to understand them–he wasn’t advocating their use.) Our assignment for tonight was to pick an existing movie, break down the plot, find the turning point, and then write a different ending. This could be in synopsis form, or we could actually write it out if we wanted. I summarized. I picked The Truman Show.

Apart from workshop time and dinner I’ve been in my room, reading for tomorrow’s session, working on that assignment, and thinking about which project I’m going to work on for next week.

Tomorrow my poor little novel is up for critique–based on some things Nancy said this morning during her lecture I know what some of the problems are that my classmates will undoubtedly be commenting on. “White Box Syndrome” struck me in particular–I have had a hell of a time setting the scene in the second chapter, so I fully expect to be called out on that.

It’s funny, I found myself severely rattled while giving my two minutes of notes to my fellows on their work, but I’m not nervous about my own being critiqued at all. Maybe it’s because I already think it’s weak, so I figure I can’t really be disillusioned. I’m certainly not here because I think it’s great, or even good–if I thought it was good I’d be asking Wendy and John to read it, and if I thought it was great I’d be querying agents. (I wonder if I will ever think it’s great?)

Oh and Nancy let me off the hook on the outline/synopsis–she says she can’t write the damned things either. So we’ll see if anyone thinks they’d want to read on without knowing what I had planned next.

My classmates are all smart, talented, serious writers. It’s nice to be back in a workshop setting–it feels a lot like the SBWC workshops, really, except that we’re critiquing more pages. I miss John and the kids already, but it’s familiar, and comfortable, even so far away from home.