June 4, 2014

Can You Gain Writing Skills at a SciFi\Fan Con?

Packed Writing Workshop Panel at ConCarolina
I realize most people think of SciFi\Fantasy Cons as a gathering of geeks and nerds who dress up like their favorite characters and play games.  Although gaming and costumes make up a significant part of the con experience, it's not the reason I attend.  Each event offers workshops and panels with people in the SciFi/Fantasy business, including authors, agents and editors.  I go for the workshops related to writing, commonly known as the Writing Track

For this reason, in 2012 I attended ArmadilloCon, in 2013, DragonCon, and in 2014, ConCarolina.  Last Saturday, I traveled to Charlotte for ConCarolina.

The workshops I attended on Saturday provided new insight to my writing efforts, especially the ones on sidekicks and the live action slush reading.

Sidekicks
This panel refuted the myth that your readers shouldn't be drawn to your secondary, and sometimes, tertiary characters. In the past, I've heard you haven't developed your protagonist well if your readers love to read the other characters. Edward McKeown, stated it this way, "You can take more risk with a secondary character, so they can change more."  This is part of why people are drawn to them--you take risks that you can't do with the protagonist.  Chris A. Jackson added that your secondary characters enrich the story, so they do well.  One attendee expressed a concern over writing a stereotypical secondary character.  The panel suggested that you have someone treat the secondary character as a stereotype and see how they react.  Odds are this act will break down any stereotypical walls your character might exhibit.

Magical Words Live Action Slush
Some of my favorite authors write for the Magical Words Blog, and they appeared in full form during this session.  As a nod to their celebrity, the room overflowed with people lining the walls and sitting on the floor, AND this was during one of George RR Martin's sessions.  Hats off to the Magical Words crew for that success.

In live action slush, writers submit the first page of their work, and a person selects a page and begins reading.  When the authors hear something that would make them stop, they raise their hand.  Once all authors have raised their hands, the reading stops and the authors explain what stopped them.  It was interesting to see when David B. Coe, Faith Hunter, and Misty Massey  reached their stopping points.  Lack of conflict or anything of intrigue in the first few lines drew the most raised hands.  If nothing happened, they stopped caring.  This is a great reminder that your writing should start with something to draw the reader in so they don't quit before the story starts.  Other tripping points included poor knowledge of crime scene tactics, telling us the character heard something rather than having them hear it, and writing where the reader couldn't identify who, what and how many characters made up the first scene.

Overall, the author's feedback provided great insight on avoiding common mistakes, and each author found something positive and encouraging to say to each writer.  Kudos to them for that, and congratulatory kudos to the one writer who didn't draw any raised hands.

I attended other panels--one on warfare another on shifting between multiple writing projects--and gained interesting knowledge and connections.  And that, my friends, is why I try to attend Scifi\Fantasy cons when I can.

What about you?  What are your favorite conferences?  Why?

6 comments:

Rick said...

Same as you, Barbara, and having met you in class at DragonCon 2013, I too enjoy the writing tracks at the Cons. I hate that I missed ConCarolina but unfortunately the timing wasn't right this year. And since it appears that I will not make DragonCon 2014 either I am sinking my extra time, and money, into the William Bernhardt's Red Sneaker Writers Book Series. I have found this to be helpful and informative even though at times it contradicts things I have learned in other classes.
Enjoyed the blog post as always. I would love to hear if you sat in on one of George R.R. Martin's sessions what he had to say about upcoming "Song of Fire and Ice" books.

Barbara V. Evers said...

Rick, I was going to attend a session where he read from Winds of Winter, but the line was too long. I just couldn't bring myself to stand out in the sun in the middle of the parking lot for an hour before. If anyone else reading this post did attend one of his sessions, please tell us if he shared any info.

J.E.S. Hays said...

I have always enjoyed the DragonCon writing track, even though at the moment I'm not writing science fiction. One year I did the workshop put on by Michael Stackpole - that was really useful information and I recommend the workshop to anyone who's interested in writing.

Tracy Cembor said...

Magical Words Live Action Slush sounds awesome!! I wish I could sit in on some panels like that sometime. It is great to have someone read your work and point out things that seem so obvious to the writer but are completely absent for the reader.

I think Dragon*Con 2013 where I met you might be my last con for a year or so now that the new baby is here. You'll need to have enough con-fun for the both of us. ;)

tracycembor.com said...

Magical Words Live Action Slush sounds awesome!! I wish I could sit in on some panels like that sometime. It is great to have someone read your work and point out things that seem so obvious to the writer but are completely absent for the reader.

I think Dragon*Con 2013 where I met you might be my last con for a year or so now that the new baby is here. You'll need to have enough con-fun for the both of us. ;)

Barbara V. Evers said...

Tracey, I'll try to cover the fun for both of us. It's a tough job, but someone's got to do it! ; )