Thursday, August 12, 2010

WriteOnCon, Moonflowers, and Tension in Fiction!

The first thing to address this Thursday morning is that you, Dear Reader, should be at WriteOnCon. Not here. Okay, so I'm glad you're here, but as soon as you're done I want you to flit on over to WriteOnCon and join in the mad, writerly festivities. The conference has been fabulously fabulous so far, and I know there are still great things to come.

Beyond that exhortation, I have a few more things to share today. The first is utterly irrelevant to Writerdom, but an enormous triumph to balcony-garden-kind, and of course, a giant step for Me as a flower-grower. And that is: I had my very first ever grown-from-seed Moonflower two days ago. And since then, I've had two more. In case you aren't familiar with this little climber, they look like this:

They are fragrant, they bloom at night and only at night--one night per bloom--and of course, they're lovely. And best of all, they're named after the moon. Now, I have a slight infatuation with the moon, so it should come as no surprise that I like this little flower. But what makes this such a triumph is the fact that this is the second year I've grown Moonflowers, and up until two days ago, I had never had a bloom before. Huzzah!

But enough about the moon. Let's move on to the gold. Today is the first-ever installment in the Chautauqua Gold Nuggets Series, and I'm going to share my notes from Patricia Lee Gauch's workshop on Tension. Dig in, and enjoy, Dear Reader!
  • Many good pieces of writing are structured like the pulling of a rubber-band: two forces pulling against each other. In those first pages of your book, you really have to begin pulling the rubber-band, stretching the tension.
  • You can also look at the book like a war, with two forces or sides. Typically, someone wants something, and something else stands in its way. This is where the war begins. And the other side might not be all bad; they might be closer and more complicated than you think.
  • Every good book starts in a hole. The character is without something. Always start in a negative position. There needs to be something in your first chapter that makes us wonder, question, wonder what is going to happen.
  • Your environment is important. Rhythm is so important to building conflict.
  • There is always a time before an important scene. You have to set the scene… you have to build up to it. And you need the stuff in between (the maybe it will work out stuff) to build the tension inbetween. Is your character going to stand up and become what she can be?
  • You are accumulating actions like beads on a string; the story picking up speed and conflict as it goes.

Some other good thoughts from Patti:
  • You have to have the courage to feel throughout your book.
  • Freshness and originality can exist even in the most common, overused places/scenes/ideas.
  • Appreciate the power of a single sentence when it’s the right sentence.
  • Don’t pussyfoot around with your story. What do you want to do with it? What do you want from it?
(All rights, credits, glories, and attributions of genius go to Patricia Lee Gauch at the 2010 Highlights Foundation Writer's Workshop at Chautaqua.)


  1. Wasn't that a wonderful presentation? I've been typing up my notes bit by bit, and the gems we were given are priceless.

  2. Yay for the moon flower. Gorgeous it is! (Sorry for the random Yoda, don't know where it came from.)

  3. the moon flower is gorgeous!

    i just stumbled across your blog, and saw that you live in tulsa. guess what? i live in tulsa too! too funny :)

  4. Michelle: yes, I loved it. She's so fabulous. I still feel like I haven't quite absorbed everything yet.

    Amie: Glad, I am, that my moonflower you like...

    Carlotta: Love this town! Glad to find a fellow Tulsan! Thanks for stopping by. :)

  5. I loved Patti's presentations! She gave us so much to think about. I keep finding myself mulling over the things she said.

    You should plant Morning Glories with your Moonflowers next year. Then you'll have blooms day and night!

  6. Thank you for posting about WriteOnCon. We seriously appreciate it. :)

  7. Nora: I did Morning Glories this year as well, but the blooms have been rather scarce. I'm hoping that I'll get better at these things every year... because the idea of having constantly opening blooms day and night is positively enchanting.

    Elana: Thanks again for all your hard work. WriteOnCon was FABULOUS. I loved it. You guys did an amazing job!