Teaching is Learning
Ever tried to study for a test or helped another person study for a test by using the “teaching method”? I learn how much I know and don’t know by attempting to explain/describe my subject to someone else.
I recently had the opportunity to teach a class on writing fiction at Stetson University in Celebration, Florida to a small group of their Lifelong Learning students. The result? I probably learned or re-learned more than my students.
Point in question: Goal, Motivation and Conflict. Thank you, Debra Dixon, your book is like the invention of sliced bread. What did people do before you so succinctly put these concepts in writing? Anyway, despite the fact I understand the definitions and the chart pretty well in the past, laying out an example without referring to one directly out of the book has been a challenge. As much as I believe these concepts are like the Rosetta Stone of Writing, I am easily confused when it comes to assigning GMC to my own characters.
For my class, I used the Cinderella story. Okay, I cheated and worked it out in advance so I could “spontaneously” lead them through the exercise of filling in the blanks on the chart in class. But still, I had to figure it out for myself, and I really got it. Maybe because I was analyzing someone else’s story. Even better, my class got it. Helping prospective writers understand these concepts will hopefully go a long way toward their writing compelling stories.
Another topic: Plotting. I’ve never really studied this part of writing to any degree, because it seemed to come naturally to me. Beware of taking things like this for granted, because that can cause you to miss out on some very fine coaching tools. For instance, I just came upon katytastic’s wonderful YouTube videos explaining how she writes, in particular, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=94F-3Z6CJJw, “How I Outline! [3 Acts, 9 Blocks, 27 Chapters]. I think I’ve intuitively followed some of what she lays out, but what a wonderful roadmap. In future endeavors, it will help expedite the plotting process and sharpen my focus. Time constraints didn’t permit me to play the video for the class, but I was delighted to share the link with them so they can enhance their understanding of the topic. (Isn’t it great to have these new digital resources available?)
Once again, I used the Cinderella tale to demonstrate first how Dwight W. Swain’s “scene” and “sequel” worked and then I went through the four parts/three acts of the story, identifying the inciting incident, first turning and second turning points, escalating action, climax and resolution. Whew! Didn’t realize there was so much to the story, did you?
Creating Characters: I debated whether to start with this topic or do GMC first. The latter won, because I think it’s easier, relatively speaking, for the writer to envision their characters and come up with the basics of a plot. It’s more difficult to understand the framework which GMC provides, and therefore, more emphasis needed to be placed there. Debra Dixon does the opposite, since Characters are the “Who” of her “Who, What, Why and Why Not” approach.
By concentrating on the above, I sacrificed the time needed to do justice to Setting, Dialogue, Pacing, Voice, Research and Synopses, although all were covered. Maybe those might someday form a second semester course.
Besides what I learned from rereading passages of several of my romance writing resource books, I learned the most from my students’ questions. Some I had ready answers for. Some I did a little tap dancing before arriving at what I considered a fairly decent response. And one or two I had to admit I simply didn’t know the answer. You know what? Other students did, and they shared their knowledge and opinions in a helpful way that did not embarrass the instructor.
Would I do this again? Definitely. But give me a little time to regroup and catch my breath first. Time to buckle down and write again.
Barbara Barrett spent her professional career as a human resources analyst for Iowa state government, and that training has stayed with her in her writing of contemporary romance fiction. Now retired, Barbara spends her winters basking in the Florida sunshine and returns to her home state of Iowa in the summer to “stay cool.” Her first two books, The Sleepover Clause, Crimson Romance, and And He Cooks Too, The Wild Rose Press, were published in the past year. A third, Driven to Matrimony, TWRP, is available on Amazon for Kindle and will be released worldwide on January 15, 2014.
Excerpt from Driven to Matrimony
“One. Two. Three.”
“What’s taking so long?”
“I’m stopping after each step to test whether there’s anything in front of me. Just in case your instructions are off. If I recall, you weren’t so hot remembering how to get us to the island.”
“Give me a break.”
“Hey, watch out!”
“Eowww!” He toppled into the tub almost on top of her, his eyes flying open as he landed. For a suspended moment, he stared at Dina. A completely naked Dina.
Contact Information for Barbara Barrett
Website and blog: http://www.barbarabarrettbooks.com
Amazon Author Central page: http://amzn.to/GYGkHr
Driven to Matrimony
The Sleepover Clause
And He Cooks Too