In fiction, stereotypical characters are often the result of lazy writing. At best, they are a turnoff and at worst they’re offensive. At times, though, fiction writers must rely on secondary stock characters to advance plot, give texture to setting, and support richly drawn principle players. Because these secondary characters aren’t fully developed, invariably they begin to fall into pat stereotypes: the bad boy, the femme fatale, the dewy-eyed ingenue, the wise fool, the quirky gay best friend, etc. In this workshop, we’ll examine a few stock characters and discuss how to write against type in a way that won’t undermine our storytelling, but will help us to avoid cliché and bad writing. We’ll read samples from published authors who have written stock characters compellingly and try our own hand at breaking stock characters out of their stereotypes.
We often discuss pacing in terms of plot: A fast paced novel is a narrative where a lot happens, right? Although a product of structure, pacing is more complex than a story’s rate of action. To understand it, a fiction writer must take into account action; emotional tension and fluctuation; chapter/section, paragraph, and sentence length; and even white space. All of these elements work together to create a novel’s pace. In this workshop, we’ll discuss pacing beyond plot. We’ll look at it in terms of character development and style. We’ll look at several examples of well paced scenes and conclude with an exercise that can help you invigorate pacing without altering plotting.
Point-of-view is one of the most complex elements of fiction. Before you begin your novel or short story, you need to know who your narrator is, who the audience is, how the narrative is being communicated, what time has passed between the events of the story and its telling, and what constraints your point-of-view has. Yes, it’s a lot to consider, but understanding the answers to those questions is the first step to writing rich and compelling fiction. In this workshop, we will discuss different types of point-of-view, and the pain and beauty of their various limitations. We’ll read work from published authors as examples and end with a short exercise to get us thinking more deeply about narrative perspective.
To celebrate the second annual Lost River Writers' Retreat, I'll be reading with Ross White, Karen Sosnoski, Matt Albersworth, and Ericka Nichols-Frazer!