Thursday, August 23, 2012

Hiding and stealing

For those of you who don't know, I am the president of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Mystery Writers of America. Two weeks ago, the chapter had the pleasure of hosting MWA-University, a roadshow of selected MWA authors who have both publishing credits and have taught writing at the collegiate level.

Even though I have a fair amount of experience in writing fiction (I tell lies so well) and have taught classes addressing writing novels, I was eager to soak up whatever extra knowledge I could from MWA-U.

Jess Lourey discussed her writing process, and how she develops an idea into a viable story through the use of a logline and a pitch. Then she explained how she expands that pitch by using an outline. Then at last, she tackles the manuscript--the easiest part of the process (of course).

All the instructors at the seminar were very good but my favorite was Rex Burns, a much acclaimed writer and now a professor emeritus at the English Department of Colorado State University in Boulder, Co. Burns shared several great examples--one of which came from Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn and another from Ernest Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms and both completely different in style and voice--of how descriptions can help propel the plot by enhancing the mood, foreshadowing drama, and developing the characters. Interestingly, for me the examples presented techniques that a critique group would, out of ignorance, red line unmercifully.

All of us writer hacks love words and Burns inspired us with two of his two gem-like quotes:

"Description is a great curtain for the author to hide behind."

"Poets are wonderful to steal from because they never complain."

So go hide and steal. And keep writing.

No comments: