Saturday, May 29, 2010

Driving Mr. de Lint

One of the best benefits of my job is the opportunity to meet amazing authors. A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to be the escort, (sounds racy, huh?) for author Charles de Lint and his wife, Mary Ann Harris.

This is the second time they've visited the library system to do programs, so I was really looking forward to this opportunity. When I drive people around, it gives me a chance to talk about writing, the book business, publishing, etc. And in the case of Mary Ann and Charles - the conversation expands to discuss Steampunk, vintage clothes, (Mary Ann has a business buying and selling) and fantasy books.

At the school program, they delighted their audience of middleschoolers when they showed up with guitar, mandolin and harmonica. Charles and Mary Ann are also musicians, and they talk about writing, the characters in Charle's books, and they sing about the things that motivate them. Things like the drive to their camp in Ontario, Canada and all the interesting small towns and people along the way.

Charles also presented a writing workshop, and that's another great benefit to my job. All the amazing authors I get to hear talk about their process. Here are a few hints from Charles de Lint.

  • Start the story right away in the first chapter. Don't waste time trying to "catch" the reader up and give all the character background at once.
  • Consider if you are using telling verbs - thought, decided, felt, wondered - instead of showing the action
  • Don't name the emotion, show it on the page
  • Voice - it's the language of your characters
  • Try to find your voice by "becoming" your character, stepping into their shoes like a method actor
  • Magic has a cause and effect. Every magical element should have a cost, and there should be an "antidote" or dangerous element to the magic. Think kryptonite for Superman
  • Beware of too much magic, where the story and characters get lost because of the magical elements
I think one of the best ways to become a better writer is to read really good writing. Not so you can "copy" the way the writer works, but so you can see the many different ways a writer can express a story. Every story will be different depending upon the person telling it, but we can learn so much from prolific, amazing authors like Charles.

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