The Road Taken Along The SMU Writer’s Path
The exciting thing about life is we really don’t know where we’re going to wind up next. Honestly, we can plan, we can arrange, we can have goals, and we can strive to get somewhere, but there are no guarantees and life and the Lord have this wonderful way of showing us we needed to veer off the course a little here and there to actually get to where we were going.
That’s where I am with the SMU Writer’s Path. Classes began last Monday evening under the tutelage of Carmen Goldthwaite who in a matter of minutes nudged me to thinking about concepts I’ve been weighing the past few months about the construction of my first novel, but in a more fundamental way.
As noted previously, my walk prior to last Monday included the works of Robert McKee and his tome STORY. Then there are dozens of other works that have peppered the thoughts of my mind from a handful of authors whose names I do not recall. Clearly, I’ve been significantly moved and influenced by the works of Jeff Gerke in his two books–The First 50 Pages and Plot Versus Character–because I have done so much study now with Myers-Briggs temperaments and how they affect my characters and more importantly, ME.
But with Ms. Goldthwaite, we set sail in a different boat last Monday evening in the class Creative Writing Foundation. Now for someone who has been writing actively for nearly 40-plus years, one might think taking a class that starts again at the foundations to be, well, insulting. But I honestly have never gone there in my mind. Being a life-long learner, I’ve come to know and understand I don’t know everything and the past few years, I’ve come to find my mind as something of a sponge when it comes to the knowledge spilled about me. I soak it up, contemplate it, and if it’s “logical” (I’m an INTJ according to Myers-Briggs and David Keirsey), I adopt it wholeheartedly.
New Books To Read
Ms. Goldthwaite’s reading materials for her class include Gary Provost’s Make Your Words Work. The assignment for the first week has been to read chapters 2, 3 and 6, which included style, grammar and description, respectively. Many good suggestions and tips have come from reading this book the past few days. This book isn’t like McKee’s STORY, where you’re into the fundamentals of the structure of a story. This is about the building blocks that make up the foundation of telling a story–largely picking the right and fewest words possible to paint a picture in the reader’s mind. The book is full of good stuff, including sections at the end of each chapter called “Coffee Break.”
The Elements Of Style
Ms. Goldthwaite also recommended William Strunk, Jr and EB White’s Fourth Edition of The Elements Of Style. (Amazon has been good to me this week.) Now having spent so much time in the AP Style book over the years, it’s hard to look at some of the things in The Elements Of Style and to me, worse, The Chicago Manual of Style 16, because to me, in particular about capitalization of headlines, I go with Up Style, meaning every word in a headline/title gets a capitalized first letter. (Chicago says to capitalize the first and last word, and all other “major words” but not to cap conjunctions, and prepositions when they are used adverbially or adjectively, and don’t cap articles like a, an and the.) Provost’s book talks in the Coffee Break about description of being aware of “what a word or an arrangement of words will bring to the reader besides meaning.” I wish the fokes in Chicago would do that again.
Back To Class
Three hours with Ms. Goldthwaite disappeared quicker than the sands of time in the hourglass before Dorothy in the Wizard Of Oz. My fellow students were equally engaged in the conversation, eager to learn and it was refreshing to be in a room of so many like-minded foke. The assignment for tomorrow night is to bring a 500 to 1,000-word character description that introduces a reader into a place or time but has no dialogue and doesn’t contain a scene. We are to show the character’s movement, thru clothing, hair, when they are, and let our readers see how emotions cross their lives and their values.
On Sunday mid-day, that’s still something of a challenge. So much of the past two months has been spent around formulating the world of my novel’s characters, figuring out who they are inside, even having bought some clay to begin molding one of them into a physical shape to better see who they really might be. Now comes the time to do the inevitable–ascribe them to paper and laser ink.
And so I must conclude this writing to begin another. And there’s client work that must be done today as well.
Ready to do some serious thinking and writing of your own? SMU soon will be opening up this class for August. It’s highly recommended.