Tuesday, March 6, 2012


What drives a story? Is it the character? The dialogue? The vintage Model T with ripped up leather seats? The plot? The scenes? Setting? There are many different views on what “drives” a story or what makes it exciting so readers just can’t seem to put it down. Usually (from my view), what it usually comes down to is character or plot. But I’m a balance-girl so I think you need both. You can have a deep, rich, developed character but if nothing happens to her, any reader outside of your immediate family will probably end up snoring with your book face down, half way sliding off your bed with their glasses askew. Conversely, a story full of excitement without good characters might leave you thinking, “Who cares what happens to this bland maiden?”

The more literary-types seem to advocate for primarily character driven stories. But plot is important, too. Something needs to HAPPEN. Writing instruction books generally break plot down into the main plot, the main problem, the main question, or that big thing which leads to the climax of the story. Various sub or minor plots are weaved in for interest and excitement. All of the plot threads should resolve at the end, not positively necessarily, but resolved. The plot usually moves through the beginning, middle and end parts of your story. One formula to developing plot is to build a character, give him or her a big problem with high stakes, throw in some minor problems and some obstacles to solving the big problem, culminate the problem in the climax, and then resolve the problem. Viola! I know -- it is not as easy as it appears.

Luckily, you have the opportunity to learn more about how to add tension, energy and excitement to create a can’t-put-it-down-story by attending the “Stuck Like Glue” session of session at Midwest Writing Center’s March 24, 2012 Pen In Hand Mini Writing Conference from 1:30 p.m. to 3:15 p.m. in downtown Davenport, Iowa.

Dr. Kelly Daniels, Augustana College instructor and author, will teach this workshop. Dr. Daniels’ fiction and nonfiction has appeared in literary journals such as Puerto del Sol, Cimarron Review, Sonora Review, Third Coast, South Dakota Review, Saint Ann’s Review, Mayday Magazine, Santa Clara Review, GSU Review, Orange Coast Review, Eyeshot and others. In 2004, John Updike awarded him the Agnes Scott College Prize for Personal Essay, and in 2010 he enjoyed a two-month residency at the acclaimed MacDowell Colony artist retreat. Most recently, his story “The Big Speech” won the San Miguel Writers Conference Award for Creative Nonfiction. He holds a B.A. from San Francisco State University, an M.F.A. from Georgia State University, and a Ph.D. from Western Michigan University.

Discounts for this and the three other Pen In Hand sessions are offered for early registrants, members and bulk buyers. Click here or call 563/324-1410 for more information and to learn how to register.

by Jodie Toohey, www.jodiet.com
Follow Jodie as she blogs about all things MWC

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