On Saturday, 19 July, 4:00-5:30 pm I’ll be facilitating a workshop at the annual summer conference of the Pacific Northwest Writers Association. Details of the location are on the events page on my website (emmacampion.com).
A workshop is a workshop, not a lecture. I do talk a bit, moving from general ideas about writing to the topic at hand, in order to give everyone a chance to arrive, physically and mentally. And then we begin. In this workshop, “A Moment in Time: focusing the historical novel,” I’ll introduce the prompts, giving some examples, and then invite each person in the room to formulate a story concept using the prompts. We’ll then workshop them, talking about what works, what doesn’t, and why.
So here’s the “handout”. I begin with a bit of background information:
current reality of what publishers want in historical novels
- tight focus
- an emotional experience
- a clear protagonist
- 100-110 k words
The panoramic historical novels of, say, Michener and Renault, are out except for authors who have track records of high sales.
Knowing that, here’s a way to narrow down your concept:
- involve your protagonist in a transitional moment in history
- show your protagonist swept up in it
- show your protagonist profoundly challenged by it
- the story is about how your protagonist changes, grows in dealing with it
- no matter how exciting or famous a fact or event, if it moves the story away from your protagonist’s struggle, take it out
prompts for this workshop
- think of an event or a character in history you find fascinating or puzzling
- choose a protagonist—can be the historical character or a fictional character caught up in the historical event
- find a transitional moment leading up to the event or in the protagonist’s life that will result in entangling them in a momentous event
Not going to be at the workshop, but trying this out? Feel free to share your concept in the comments.
Here’s some general background that might help:
Some key ideas from Lisa Cron (Wired for Story) in a TEDxFurmanU talk this year, The Power of Story:
Brain science has revealed that we use story to make sense of our experience; it’s a cooperative effort of left and right brain.
We turn to story to navigate reality. The brain learns by feeling something subjectively.
Hence the “power” of story: You can’t change how people think about something until you change how they feel about it.
All stories are a call to action.
I highly recommend, Wired for Story by Lisa Cron (10 Speed Press 2012)