Monday, May 14, 2012

Problem: The Core of Story

Me with author John Brown
I love writing conferences. They give me an excellent opportunity to rub elbows with authors of all levels, working hard on their craft. But even more important, I have the chance to be inspired by motivational lessons from published authors.

One of my absolute favorites is John Brown, author of Servant of a Dark God.

The first presentation I ever saw John give was at LTUE 2011. It was so impressive, I went to his lecture called, "Lessons on Story from the Hunger Games." Apart from being a huge fan of the series, I'd also been studying how Suzanne Collins crafted her amazing series, so I was really interested to hear what John had to say. Well, it was one of the best presentations I saw and made a serious impression on me.

At this year's LDStorymakers conference, I saw that John was giving a presentation on, "Problem: The Core of the Story." Having already been impressed with John's classes, I knew I had to get into this one.

Lemme say, it didn't disappoint.

Hope & Fear
Without putting down my entire two pages of notes, John talked about how important problems are to our stories. I've heard other authors talk about it as conflict, but what ever you refer to it as, if you remove the problem or conflict in the story... well... you have no story. As John said, if you take the problem out of Jurassic Park (dinosaurs eating people) you're left with a trip to the zoo. Take the problem out of Les Miserables and all you have is a travel log to Paris.

You have to create a logical problem that makes the reader hope and fear what the result will be.

"Problems beg for scenes."
One of the absolute priceless gems John said, was that "if you don't know what to write, you're missing a problem." He said that when he's found his story floundering, it was because the problem wasn't there and when he found the problem, writing the book took off. "Problems beg for scenes."

He then went on to discuss the Story Cycle and how conflict and surprise power the entire cycle. But without going into a HUGE discussion of what he said, I'll just refer you to the SFWA link below for his presentations on Key Conditions for Reader Suspense.

Ultimately I just have to say that I wish LDStorymakers had this as a two hour master class, because I could have easily listened to John talk about this for another hour.

To read and see more from John Brown, visit the links below. And be sure to check out the various writing lessons on his website.

1 comment:

  1. I missed his presentations both at LTUE and at Storymakers. They sound fabulous! Thanks for sharing what you learned, and the links too.


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