Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Camp 1 (Saturday morning) at the SCBWI Mid-Atlantic Novel Revision Retreat

The three happy campers awoke to a beautiful day along the Skyline Drive only to discover the showers were coin operated. A mad scramble for quarters ensued. After showers and breakfast around the picnic table we headed for the Big Meadows Lodge for the start of the craft sessions.

“Visualizing Your Novel: Mapping Narrative and Emotional Story Arcs” was first at bat. Alisha Niehaus, Senior Editor from Dial Books for Young Readers led the session. All of the sessions were well thought out, expertly presented, and allowed time for writing exercises and discussions about writing problems and solutions. Alisha hit a homerun. She plotted a typical narrative arc, which of course looked like an ever-increasing mountain range while the emotional arc was a smile with happiness on one axis and time on the other. Juxtaposition the two graphs over top of one another and you have a slightly askew, gaping mouth complete with jagged teeth. (After all, she called it visualizing your novel.) She suggested you use events and roadblocks (narrative) to get the main character through the emotional arc. Two things to consider: what events will build and how the events could make the character grow. She reminds us to make the reader frustrated. This will involve them more deeply in the story. The classic plot she stated is to move your characters on a journey outside their comfort zone in order for them to mature.


Jayne said...

Interesting stuff - sounds like you are having a great time! One thing I would say though is about the frustrated reader part - if I am reading a book and am frustrated, then that just means I am angry and annoyed with the story, something about it is not making sense. I probably wouldn't pick up that book again, or seek out more by that author. So personally I wouldn't like to frustrate the reader - engage with them definitely, tantalise them oh yes, but frustrate? Not for me!

Sarah said...

I didn't even notice the bit about frustration at first. I read it as frustrating your main character at first. And as someone who can be too nice to my MC, I was nodding my head.

As far as readers go, I think a bit of frustration is a good thing- but like Jayne says, pushing it to exasperation is counterproductive.

Andrea Franco-Cook said...

FWIW, I think some frustration is good. Stephanie Meyer did a great job of this in her Twilight series books. I really felt for "Jacob's" character and was frustrated by "Bella's" ambivalence toward him. Nonetheless, I kept turning pages to see what happened next. This said, I think Sarah is right, frustration can draw the reader further into the story.