Now booking Haven Retreat at Stratton Mountain in Vermont– Nov. 5-9 For more info click here!
I’m in the middle of my Haven Retreat high season and by the end of November will have worked intimately with over 50 people. They are my teachers as much as I am theirs. One kind retreater wrote down some of her take-aways and gave them to me as a gift written on handmade paper. Almost nothing makes me happier. (see above photo) I have learned so much from meeting my Haven attendees not only in person, but on the page, and I’ve found that most of us are stuck in the same ways. The most common way is this:
We are afraid to dive right into the stories and the characters. We flutter around them like they are hot flame and we are not quite moths. I say start in the middle. Start in the white hot moment. Start breathless. Why not? You don’t need Arnold Schwarzenegger to come in with an uzi gun to make it active. But keep it alive with things like intriguing details, the five senses, what goes on in the characters minds, and what comes out of their MOUTHS. Start with a powerful question in your mind and write into the answer.
“Always get to the dialogue as soon as possible. I always feel the thing to go for is speed. Nothing puts the reader off more than a great slab of prose at the start. I think the success of every novel — if it’s a novel of action — depends on the high spots. The thing to do is to say to yourself, ‘Which are my big scenes?’ and then get every drop of juice out of them. The principle I always go on in writing a novel is to think of the characters in terms of actors in a play. I say to myself, if a big name were playing this part, and if he found that after a strong first act he had practically nothing to do in the second act, he would walk out. Now, then, can I twist the story so as to give him plenty to do all the way through? I believe the only way a writer can keep himself up to the mark is by examining each story quite coldly before he starts writing it and asking himself if it is all right as a story. I mean, once you go saying to yourself, ‘This is a pretty weak plot as it stands, but I’m such a hell of a writer that my magic touch will make it okay,’ you’re sunk. If they aren’t in interesting situations, characters can’t be major characters, not even if you have the rest of the troop talk their heads off about them.”
I think there are life lessons in this advice as well. If we don’t speak for ourselves, others might, and they don’t really know us. Not really. If we don’t express our truth, then it’s anyone’s guessing game. I’m not saying that we should walk around being fully self-expressed in every moment, but when it counts, find your voice and speak it with all your heart. And then…after that…allow yourself to be wildly misunderstood. Others will try to fill in the blanks. At least you can control speaking your piece/peace. And that’s good news.