The conference this year was wonderful. It was small; I’d say maybe 100 writers came, but it was very informative.
I was surprised though how much I actually knew beforehand. Some of it was a refresher for me, but that’s always helpful too–it further cements it in my otherwise addled brain.
The one session I found extremely helpful was Regina Doman’s How to Create Evil Characters When You’re a Good Person. Very eye-opening. She gave three key points on how to understand evil to write a convincing villain.
- Take your own temptations and exaggerate them. For example, we all have moments when we feel so angry at the world we could destroy something (or worse, hurt someone). Make your villain actually act on that.
- Empathy. We must understand why our villain became what he/she did.
- Father Brown’s Way. This is based off the famous literary character from the short mysteries by G.K. Chesterton. Essentially, we must understand the evil to the point where you can picture yourself committing it. This can be difficult to do, especially if you’re a sensitive soul (like me) and it affects your ability to sleep. The presenter explained we must continually remind ourselves of the beauty in the world in order to maintain your sanity.
She also mentioned that we should not have such a good opinion of ourselves. Each of us has the inclination towards evil, the only difference between us and the villains of the world is self-awareness. Those who have done evil for so long eventually become blinded by it and come up with excuses. Their hearts are hardened to the point where they lose that self-awareness. There was so much more to the session but I’m afraid I’ve elaborated on it enough 😛
Jane Friedman, publisher and editorial director of F + W Media (they publish the Writer’s Digest magazine and books), spoke about how important it is for authors to create their brand and market themselves. This is something I’ve read about all over the web but the refresher was great–especially her workshop on creating a website. I learned even more then and I also found out that it’s really nice to have a unique name as my domain still exists (for now).
There was one workshop I was less than thrilled with; we analyzed a short story (which took me back to my college days and made me realize how I’m “out of practice”). That wasn’t so bad, although I wasn’t too thrilled at the end when the presenter said that the literature you can analyze and has meaning behind every single word, is the only stuff that endures and “what’s the point of writing something that doesn’t” didn’t really sit well with me. So I’m supposed to write with symbolism and deeper meaning behind each and every word? I think not. And my stuff may not be analyzed in a classroom but who cares. I write what speaks to me and if I had to put all this hidden symbolism in my story, I think I’d stop writing forever. That’s just not enjoyable to me.
Anyway…rant done. I’m sure others in the classroom got a great deal from it, but it just made me view the presenter as elitist or something. I’m sure she’s a perfectly nice person but I don’t agree with her on literature.
That’s pretty much it. I do plan on going again next year too and it really makes me want to go to other conferences. Too bad that often costs a great deal more money than I have. 😛