I am so excited to write about this year’s Write Stuff Writers Conference that I attended on March 21-23. The Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group (https://greaterlehighvalleywritersgroup.wildapricot.org/) organizes it every year and this was my fifth year going. As always, I learned a lot and enjoyed it immensely. Everyone was so warm and welcoming that I felt I was reuniting with life-long friends.
Author/Editor Ben Wolf was this year’s keynote speaker. He has written and edited over 100 published works. Ben is the founder of Splickety Publishing Group, a magazine that publishes flash fiction. He has written novels and a children’s book. In 2015 he won the Cascade Award (https://oregonchristianwriters.org/2015-cascade-contest-winners/) for his novel, Blood for Blood, and his children’s book, I’d Punch a Lion in His Eye for You, was a Cascade Award winner in 2016 (https://oregonchristianwriters.org/cascade-award-winners-2016/). His concentration is primarily in speculative fiction.
Ben is 33 years old. When I arrived at the conference to find him as the keynote speaker, my first thought was, “How could someone so young teach the attendees, most older than he is, about writing?”
But it turned out he could. He actually taught us quite a lot.
The following are a few pieces of advice from his talk on “The Three Pillars of Storytelling: Your Novel’s High Concept.” He referenced his information from the book Fiction Writing for Dummies by Randy Ingermanson. In some of the bulleted points, I will be quoting directly from a few of Ben Wolf’s PowerPoint slides.
- The Goal of Every Story is to deliver a powerful emotional experience.
- Every story must do at least one of the following: educate, entertain, or persuade.
- ) Entertain-writers are required to do research to make sure they are meeting their readers’ expectations, particularly in that genre (e.g. In romance: some combination of love, lust, and conflict).
- ) Educate-writers must think of what they want their readers to learn along the way.
3.) Persuade-in the case of “issue” fiction, they must decide what topics they want to change or influence readers’ minds about.
- There are 5 pillars of writing fiction
1.) Construct a believable setting
3.) Create a strong plot
4.) Develop a meaningful theme
5.) Do all of it with style
In this blog post, I am going to concentrate on the second pillar-interesting characters. Ben used examples from the movie Star Wars. For those unfamiliar with the plot, Trance (https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0076759/plotsummary), a plot author, summed it up as follows: “Luke Skywalker joins forces with a Jedi Knight, a cocky pilot, a Wookiee and two droids to save the galaxy from the Empire’s world-destroying battle station, while also attempting to rescue Princess Leia from the mysterious Darth Vader.”
- The best way to hook a reader is with a compelling character. How does a writer achieve this? By knowing their character’s backstory.
1.) Who are they?
2.) Where did they come from?
3.) What happened that shaped who they are today?
4.) What does the character want?
5.) What is their motivation?
The writer must know the following about each character in their story
- ) Values-Those things a character holds most strongly to be true. Nothing is more important than. . . Writers must convey values through action and behavior and make sure their character’s values have
As an example, Darth Vader’s values were that nothing is more important than power and his son, Luke Skywalker
2.) Ambition-The one abstract
Luke Skywalker’s ambition was to be a hero.
Story Goals-The one concrete thing your character wants in the story. The character must believe this will help him/her achieve or get closer to achieving their ambition. The more specific the writer can be about the character’s story goals, the better. It is essential the reader believes the story goal matters, the character has a chance to achieve their goal, and there is a chance the character may fail
3.) Han Solo’s story goal was to obtain the money he needed to pay off the bounty on his life from Jabba the Hutt, a powerful gangster in the galaxy who had great influence in both the criminal and political underworld.
Finally, as demonstrated from Trance’s plot summary stated earlier, the author must formulate
- A simple, one-sentence idea that describes the main conflict of the book.
Ben has spoken at over 40 writers’ conferences to date. I highly recommend any writer striving to improve their craft sign up and listen to his advice. He may be a youngster, but he gives many valuable pointers to writers of all genres.
Authors interested in getting help with their stories can reach out to Ben through his website, www.benwolf.com/editing-services. He offers coaching and editing services and has helped many authors bring their works to publication.
Idelle Kursman is the author of True Mercy, a thriller designed to bring awareness to two issues: families coping with a loved one with autism and the human trafficking crisis. True Mercy is for sale on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IngramSpark, and Smashwords.
Need help with blog content? Please contact me through my website, www.idellekursman.com.