All right. Long overdue summary of LTUE that went on hold because of hiatus. As always, I learned a lot from the experience. I waited too long to be able to remember everything I wanted to touch on, I think, but I also took very good notes (16 pages for Thursday alone…). That should help me reconstruct some of the points I wanted to talk about. Warning, this is a list-heavy post.
Thursday, 13 Feb. 2014- Sessions Attended:
- Writing Natural Dialogue- Derrick Duncan, David Powers King, Heather B. Moore, Diann T. Read, Candace J. Thomas, with Karen C. Evans moderating
- How to Make Up Martial Arts- Michaelbrent Collings, Valerie Mechling, Samuel Stubbs, with Adam Meyers moderating
- All About Armor- Scott Bascom, Kevin H. Evans, Heather B. Moore, with Dan Willis moderating
- Queries- Peggy Eddleman, Jenni James, C. Michelle Jefferies, Christopher Loke, Shallee McArthur, with Jaclyn M. Hawkes moderating
- How to Write a Villain- Robert J. Defendi, Aaron Johnston, Heather Ostler, Charlie Pulsipher, with Helge Moulding moderating
- Language Creation Workshop- Dirk Elzinga, professor of linguistics at BYU
Best points picked up from Writing Natural Dialogue:
- Become accustomed to natural dialogue- Do this by listening/recording the conversations around you.
- Read your dialogue out loud to make sure it flows naturally.
- Know your character and how they would speak.
- Don’t overdo dialect. If it’s internal thought/narrative, leave the dialect out and write normally.
- Avoid infodumping of exposition through dialogue. It’s okay to have characters hold back.
- Break long stretches of dialogue up with actions.
I think one of my favorite ideas that came from this session was from Karen C. Evans. She suggested that good dialogue is like an Impressionist painting. It doesn’t imitate life exactly, because who wants to hear all the boring stuff and the “ums” and “ahs”? But it does give a suggestion of life. A lot of this panel felt like review to me, but not in a bad way. It was more of a gut-check. Making sure that I’m sticking to the things that I already know, and giving myself some internal review. I like to think that my dialogue is pretty natural. But I’m definitely implementing the reading out loud thing the next time I’m editing a piece.
Best points from How to Make Up Martial Arts:
- Strive for realism and internal consistency.
- Study the philosophy of the art as much as the physical aspects.
- You don’t have to be flashy to be good. Dangerous people can be sensed by the way they move.
- Long, extended fights don’t happen. Two tigers concept: Two tigers meet in the woods, and fight over territory. One dies, one walks away maimed for life. Most of the time in a fight between masters is spent sizing each other up.
- If the enemy can’t see, if they can’t breathe, then they can’t fight.
- Most names for martial arts moves are descriptive, even if there is poetry to it.
- How important a martial art is to a culture is determined b y how necessary it is/the role it plays.
- If you are going to have armor, you need to be able to wear it and use it to your advantage.
- When armoring a character, think about what it is they need to defend against.
Some of my favorite parts of this panel were lines that Michaelbrent Collings threw out, talking about fighting and conflict. Such phrases like “It’s like riding an angry bicycle–with fists!” and “junk punch marathon” made this panel totally enjoyable. Since I’m going to be doing some more eastern-influenced stuff in my writing soon, I felt that this panel really helped me get a good grasp on some of the combat rules I might need to establish. I came out of this panel with a reading list, as well. The Art of War by Sun Tzu, The Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi, and Tao of Jeet Kune Do by Bruce Lee.
Best points from All About Armor:
- What type of combat is going to be happening? What kind of armor is needed for it? Who is fighting?
- Biggest limiting factors in making arms and armor: cost, quality of materials, and weight.
- Study history and other cultures to get a good idea of the kind of armor that would work best in your scenario.
This panel was really sort of just fun, listening to discussion on the various types of armor and what they’re good for, and some historical examples. I didn’t get a lot of notes out of it, but I did get some good food for thought in those three points there.
Best points from Queries:
- YOU HAVE OPTIONS.
- Do your research. You need to know how to query regardless of whether or not you’re going to self-publish.
- Spend the time on your query, because it’s like the resume of your book and this is your business. Craft it well, and have other people look at it before sending it off.
- Queries are for marketing yourself as an author to your prospective agent/publisher.
- Deliver your book’s hook in the most evocative way possible in the fewest words. And don’t start with a question!
- Get involved in your writing community and enter contests, etc., in order to build your author bio. A publisher wants to see if you will be capable of selling.
- Target your audience- know who you are sending your query to, and tailor it to that agent/editor/etc.
What I got most out of this session is that writing is a business and in order to be successful, you have to treat it like a business, not just a hobby. I’ve since spent a lot of time on practice queries. I think I’m getting better. I HOPE I’m getting better.
Best points from How to Write a Villain:
- A villain is, technically, anyone who wants something you don’t. The person who stands between the hero and the hero’s goals.
- Villains are the heroes of their own stories. Their stories just run counter to the protagonists’. They have motivation.
- Many villains are fallen heroes who have lost their capability for empathy.
- Intrinsic villains vs. extrinsic- Evil for the sake of evil, vs. evil because of laws/orders they have to follow, etc. A good example of the latter that was given is that of Erwin Rommel, AKA The Desert Fox of World War 2. He was an honorable man, but he fought for Nazi Germany.
- A good villain must have, and demonstrate, power. If we don’t believe they can beat the hero, then they’re a weak villain.
- A villain is often distinguished by a matter of force vs. free will.
- What kind of villain you have in your story will be genre-dependent.
I wish I could remember more from this one. I was standing by the door holding it shut to keep noise from outside out of the panel because the springs kept pulling it back open slightly. I do remember being impressed by Mr. Moulding’s account of Rommel (how had I never heard of him before?) and how that tied in to the idea of villains being heroes of their own stories, and how villains can still demonstrate honorable and sympathetic qualities.
Best points from the Language Creation Workshop:
- When creating a language, make spelling as phonetic as possible for sake of your readers.
- Best test for where a consonant fits is to stick it between vowels.
- Don’t overuse your really cool sounds.
- Remember that grammar/syntax encodes meaning. Understand grammar.
- The mental lexicon (catalog of words and their meanings) is inextricably tied to culture. Language affects culture, and culture affects language.
I’ve been putting these principles into use on creating the language that started in my story for this year’s Sword and Sorceress submission. It’s going pretty well, to be honest, although I have no idea where it’s going to go from here. I should sit down and work some things out with it, but for now I’m happy to have just a few words and ideas captured.
Overall, Thursday was a long and educational day. I had a lot of fun and I got a lot out of it. I always get a lot out of LTUE, which is why I continue to go.