Six Sentence Sunday, NaNoWriMo, Michael Hauge and Me

Those of you in the Washington, DC area won’t be surprised to see Michael Hauge’s name in the title of my blog post today. Any WRW member who had a chance to spend time with him this weekend at his fabulous workshop, presented by WRW, appreciates my adoration. The man rocks hard with the identity and the essence and the stages of conflict that bring emotions to life. You know what I’m saying.

But why Six Sentence Sunday? Besides the sense of community it fosters and the promotional ops, why am I mentioning the two in the same blog?

A few weeks ago, I pulled out one of my old WIPs and decided to use it for Six Sentence Sunday. Then after a few weeks of consistently searching for, finding and posting a ‘good’ six, my old WIP felt brand new. Positive feedback fueled me, prompting me to shove the WIP to the number one spot on my must-finish list. (And oh, it’s about a vampire FBI agent struggling to keep a promise to a witch.)

So with that WIP in my head, I spent the weekend with Michael Hauge. Now in short, Hauge is a Hollywood script (screenplay) doctor. This was my third Hauge encounter in four years. And this weekend, I also signed up for a 30-minute one-on-one meeting (which he allowed me to record!).

A quick aside…I’m a visual person, and whether or not you buy this next statement–so are all writers. At least fiction writers are visual artists – they take the vision in their heads called a story and write it into words that make so much sense the reader ‘sees’ the characters in action as they read about the character’s conflict, emotions, fears and longings…played out in a plot.

So Mr. Hollywood screenplay script-doctor Hauge is perfect for me. Combined with other workshops, craft books, brainstorming sessions, online think tanks, and all the activities writers use to make better sense of their craft, he brings a fresh terminology and a passion for emotional story telling that captivates me. He also isn’t shy about showing his impatience with writers, which made me smile. But more importantly, that impatience reinforced a key component of his message for me—simplify, simplify, simplify.

Some writers, like me, we do too much. We put too many obstacles–situations–in front of the character to replace the difficulty of understanding and writing conflict. Our world building is so complicated it takes over the characters—which can never happen in a good book. You can tell I could go on and on…but let me recap the highlights of what I learned this weekend.  Here goes:

  • There is a difference between conflict and obstacles. Don’t laugh. That realization was a big deal for me…
  • Internal vs. external or emotion vs. situation. Without conflict, without emotion, a situation is a plot point without a heart.
  • Less is more.
  • Don’t give away too much about character in the opening of your story–drive to the finish line (don’t sprint). In my one-on-one private session with Hauge, which I highly recommend, we talked about my opening scene and the black moment and the ending scene, all driven by conflict and set-up in the opening scene (yep, in 30 minutes:).

If you were there this weekend, I’d like to know what hit home for you. If you weren’t, what craft book or workshop instructor, or author, comes to mind when you need inspiration or just a reminder of what matters on the page…and how you can get there. So share, and let’s celebrate good workshops, good RWA chapters (hoorah WRWDC!), and insightful instructors.

(And oh, I have nothing to say about NaNoWriMo – I put it in my blog title because, well, my brain is ready to explode…12k and counting…and we must never forget November is National Writing Month–damn it!:)