Saturday, August 25, 2012

Welcome to Laurel's Blog

I’ve shared writing tips since 1995, when I started my first critique group through UW-Madison. A second group sprang up a year later, and since the time my first book came out in 2000 (“Take Your Characters to Dinner”) I’ve run three ongoing critique groups, including one for novelists only.

The tips became synonymous with Laurel the writing coach and began appearing as part of my presentations at every major UW writing program (Writer’s Institute, School of the Arts, Weekend with Your Novel, Write by the Lake and my own weekend programs like “Saving the Scene” or “Making Magic with Metaphor.”

I’m now semi-retired. But since I’m teaching almost as much as when I went to the office every day, I’m now inclined to share those tips with an even wider audience. That’s the motivation behind this blog.

The first tip will be about conveying emotion: coming up soon…

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Novels and the Concept of New

Here’s the first novel tip:

Every instant of emotion is both old as human nature and new as this particular interaction. As a novelist, it’s your job to give readers both the weight of all those centuries and the singularity of this clash: to make each moment both universal and individual. So.

ü      Let readers infer. (Emotions aren’t compelling when summarized.)

ü      Be concrete. (And focus on smell, taste, sound and touch rather than just sight).

ü      Identify the archetypal elements in this clash. For example, how did Helen of Troy feel about all the men who’d perish in a war over her and—that there was in fact a war over her—one far from her home and roots. (Find at least three emotional components that hold as true for your characters as for Helen, i.e. guilt, vanity, isolation.)

ü      Probe deep beneath the surface. (Emotions are multi-dimensional. Respect their complexity.)

ü      Make this a novel moment. (Use setting to make emotions physical. End the interaction with enough ambiguity that readers worry and wonder about what follows.)

To make your novel “novel,” come at it in a novel way. Change when you write or how you revise or where you do your writing. Writing a novel is work—but must also be play.