Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Me & the Writing Panel Author Event

So I went to an author event on the weekend and all I took photos of was me and some Star Wars cosplayers who were wandering around the library. Which was so bizarre:

Darth Vader was really tall.
He also had this breathing sound effect going the whole time, LOL.
My kids wanted to know if the spikes on Darth Maul's head were actual bone implants, haha. I don't know, but it looked pretty genuine. Wish I had peered in closer... 

That R2D2 was actually used in Empire Strikes Back. We could look but not touch. (Although I got my head pretty close, haha)

The author panel was part of the 'grand finale' of the Sci Fi Month, of which I had no idea. I was mainly going to catch up with YA author Paula Weston. (And seeing Marianne De Pierres would be a bonus, too)

Official flyer I half read before committing to the event

When I got out at the carpark (at Logan North Library) I had a startled moment as I looked up through the second storey windows and saw Darth Maul and Darth Vader standing next to a Death Star backdrop, gazing out over street. The place was buzzing. With random sci-fi characters and people dressed up. To enter the library, you had to walk through a Stargate  (classic!)

The Brisbane Regional Youth Orchestra  was fully set up in one section of the library, playing Star Wars tunes (such atmosphere!) while storm troopers and jawas looked on. There were other professional sci fi characters wandering about, ones I am not geeky enough to know who they were (haha). 

On to the actual event. 
(of which I managed to take zero photos...)

Marianne De Pierres (author of the Burn Bright series, among others) was the host, and four sci fi/fantasy authors were on the panel (see event poster above). They had a great vibe and camaraderie amongst them (good times!). Marianne posed questions and each author approached their work in different ways, so it was cool to hear all different perspectives.

Here's some of the questions and responses, all paraphrased by me (the authors, of course, were much more eloquent)

How do you go about plotting?

Rowena: believes we all have an innate sense of story and authors need to trust that. If the story is working, she'll feel good about it. If not, something about the direction of the plot just feels clunky and she reworks it. Approaches her work: I want x and y to happen, but I let characters take control of how it all comes together.

Kev: I start with an idea. What if? Then let the characters tell the story. Much more fun that way.

Trent: Writes in notebooks, sometimes elaborately, but then always ignores the notebooks. Later on (post-project) finds earlier notebooks and has a moment - oh! that's right! I was going to do that! Makes diagrams and maps but in a chaotic way. Uses diagrams to discover new things. Most important thing to him is being open to the weird things that happen along the way. Like following the white rabbit. Any other way is boring, for him. Needs to discover along the way. (He showed us a "small" notebook, which was A3 in size and full of scribbled notes, drawings, etc)

Paula: Talked about how working out details are important as she is working on book two of a four book series. She has a rough idea for each book in the series covering the story arc and individual character arcs. Important to lay the seeds for the big reveal in book four (me: instantly, I am DYING to know what the big reveal is...)

Marianne: Mentioned for her there was no right way/no magic recipe and that for each book it can be different.  When writing mystery/crime she plots more. She talked about plotting over a series and joked about you just write into the terror :D

What do you do when your plot hits a dead end?

Paula: One word: Foofighters.(LOL!) She goes for drive with the Foofighters blaring and everything becomes clear ;) Music is really good for her brainstorming, but when she is actually writing, she never plays music. Dead ends often mean she is trying to force something with her characters for the plot that doesn't match who they are.

Trent: (shamefully confesses) he does not write in a linear fashion. If he gets stuck, he just writes a different scene from a different part of the story. I love what he said here: About a third of the way into the first draft, he has an epiphany about what the final scene will be. Then everything else is just a dance towards that final scene. 

Kev: forces himself to write when stuck. Just writes any random scrap of dialogue, anything, and often what he begins writing leads him through to the next part.

Rowena: Talked about believing in her instinct for the story. If she does get stuck, she goes back through what she has already written. She fixes up previous scenes and polishes things up and gets to know the characters better and that often unblocks the path. 

Random comment from Marianne: if you know the rules of writing, you can break them. (have to know the rules first)

Talking about characters. Do they arrive fully formed? Or do you get to know them?

Paula: For Shadows, Rafa arrived fully formed. MC Gabby was more complex: she is like two characters in the sense that her present character had amnesia and her past shows a completely different side of her, unknown to herself. Paula shared an awesome tip from her editor who posed Paula the question:  why are gabby and Maggie friends? (as opposed to Maggie just being the requisite side character for plot's sake) and it forced Paula to discover more of Maggie's background (she discovered Maggie's own pain and story) and she went back through and was able to add depth to their relationship.

Marianne strongly recommends this book to everyone: Nancy Kress 

Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint: Techniques and exercises for crafting dynamic characters and effective viewpoints

Where do they find characters? Is it a mixture of pure imaginatoin, seeing a random person or people they know?

Marianne: her strongest characters are partially based on someone she knows.

Random discussion with all author going for it: Often start with rough shape of personality type. Paula mentioned she doesn't base her characters on someone, but often thinks her characters have a similar personality to so-and-so and when she is stuck on what a charatcer would say/do she thinks: what would so-and-so do? (ie her cousin/friend with that assertive personality...) 

Discussion turns to how the character themselves are different to the author's perception of the character which is different to the characters perception of themselves which differs from the reader's perceptions of the character which differs to the other characters perception of the character and how it changes of the course of the novel, etc, etc and etc.

Rowena refers to the Johari Circle. Rather well, by memory. And how you can use all that info to flesh out a character and give them depth/discover things. 

Just substitute 'us and ourselves and organisation' for your characters to see how the Johari thing works  in this context
Marianne asks how to keep characters fresh, referring to the main character of the book and not always writing in the same "voice"

Here my notes get fuzzy and I make some random note about goodreads and LOL (?)

Nuggets I wrote (not sure who said what)

  • Don't cater for the public. Tip: Don't read a review and consider someone's thoughts and adjust your character accordingly. Try and forget all that and be true to the character. (Having said that, one author said they realised through reading reviews that perhaps their characters were rather too unlikeable and realised it's important to give them a shred of likeablility, haha)
  • Characters just are who they are (everyone nodded profoundly at this)
  • Marianne deliberately changed her new series from 1st person to 3rd person to avoid sounding the same in first person to her previous series. 

Then the audience asked a heaps of questions and I relaxed and didn't write one more word ;)

What I loved most about the event was just hearing the authors chat so openly about things. Also, authors are such fun people (huge generalisation, but I am going with it). Afterwards, I chatted to a few of the authors. Marianne was just. so. nice. She is friendly and funny and clever and really generous with her time.
Australian cover. Out now.
UK Cover. Jan '13 release

Likewise with Paula Weston, who I got on so well with. Gosh, I had a great time chatting with her. I am also really pumped for Paula as her Aussie YA debut, Shadows, has a four book deal not only in Australia, but also in the UK and the US. Her book, Shadows, is one of my favourite reads this year, even though I don't do paranormal YA, haha, it was brilliant and addictive and sexy. Cannot wait for Book #2, Haze.

Also, can't wait for my next author/industry event. Now that I am closer to a capital city I am pumped about the opportunity to attend stuff like this. 

May the force be with you,



  1. I had a ball too! And I really enjoyed finally meeting and chatting with you in person too. Let's do it again. :)

    (And how authentic where those stormtroopers!)

  2. How cool. And seriously how awesome are those pictures. I love it.

  3. Okay, the nerd in my just exploded with all of the Star Wars photos! Super jealous of your near-contact with R2! (Empire is my favorite, btw.)

    Sounds like a great event, and I really enjoyed the information the author's shared.

  4. Your picture with Dark Helmet is awesome. ;)

    I just got Shadows and I'm so excited to read it. I talked to the Tundra rep at ALA this year and she was really excited about the US release. I love the Aussie cover with the hoodie, which means we'll probably get something closer to the UK cover.

    Great recap, Nomes!!


  5. This is such fab post Nomes, it sounds like you had an awesome time! I wish we had more author events like these over here! I'm super excited about picking up Shadows ever since I read your review and so I'm over the moon that it's being released here! :)

  6. This was an awesome blog post. Lots of great tips in here, and I'll be checking out that book recommendation! Glad you had fun, it sounds like quite the event. :)

    lol about the DV thing too. Great pictures!

  7. Love it Nomes-- thanks for sharing all your notes! I love hearing all the tips, but also really like to hear stories of nice, friendly authors who as you said are "generous with their time". Very cool.

  8. Gosh, I need to go to author events…I love learning about everyone's different techniques and trying them out myself. Great post!


Thanks for the commenty love :)