Notes and Links from June 10

At the June 10, 2020, meeting, we started with a lesson on characters from Romy Natalia Goldberg, broke into critique groups to discuss your first 500 words, and then had a lesson from Molly about character pitfalls and some notes about first pages. One thing that Natalia had suggested people do to see how well they know their character (protagonist, antagonist, etc.) is to think of something in your room that you like and imagine your character hates it or to think of a food you love and imagine that your character is allergic to that food. If you don’t know how your character would react, you need to flesh them out more. Natalia suggested that people visit these links to help develop their characters: “12 Common Character Archetypes & How Writers Can Use Them” by Amanda Patterson (www.writerswrite.co.za/the-12-common-archetypes ), “Seven Character Types” by Martina Boone (www.adventuresinyapublishing.com/2011/10/seven-character-types-that-build-your.html), and “16 Personalities – Personality Types” (www.16personalities.com/personality-types). The 16 Personalities site has a page (linked just before this) that describes the personality types, and there is a link at the top right of that website to “Take the test” which you can do as your protagonist, antagonist, sidekick, etc. if that helps you flesh out your character.

Molly wanted everyone to see the First Page Checklist (pdf can be downloaded from www.bcslibrary.org/first-page-checklist). Molly talked about the hook (draws people in immediately). If your first line is not memorable, can you rewrite it? Is it true? She said that you should balance it so you tell something about the character’s journey but not too much or too little. What tone did you set? Is there any intensity or emotional response? She said that, especially for a short story, you only have so much space and it’s expensive real estate. Check over your first page. Do you have any analogies or metaphors? Molly said that 1 to 3 was okay, and more than that’s too much. Mark the adjectives and adverbs, and then read the story without them and make sure it still makes sense. Cross out common adjectives, adverbs, and cliches. Make a list of nouns and a list of verbs. Cross out the common nouns and verbs and try replacing them with less common ones. Check a thesaurus. Don’t get too carried away though; you shouldn’t have all huge words that people have to look up. Write down just the dialogue for the first page. Then write down just the description. See what the balance is between the amount of dialogue and description and see if you have too much or not enough dialogue. Try doing the same exercises (amount of common and uncommon nouns/verbs, amount of dialogue and description) for five pages by a writer you like to see what balance you like to read. Molly said that most writers use lazy words on their first draft.

Next week (June 17), Natalia will be joining us again, and she will be talking about plot. You should bring pages to read; you should have 1000 words. At the end of the June 17 meeting, Molly will be talking about endowed objects and maps.

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