Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Serendipity



Apologies for my absence, I took a break from historical fiction to write the second novella in my contemporary series set in Polvellan, a Cornish village not a million miles from the one where I live.  Writing something completely different in length and genre was exhilarating.  Fortunately it pleased the Boss and I’ve signed a contract to write more. 

Now I’m back in the C19th writing a sequel to ‘The Consul’s Daughter’ which is due out in July, called ‘The Master’s Wife.’ 

Because the first book ended after drama and upheaval with the couple finally recognising their love for each other, the challenge with this new one was to decide when it would begin and what precipitating event would turn their lives upside down.

Once I had chosen both, I still needed something more, something that would broaden and deepen the story.  It came via  one of those wonderful ‘serendipity’ moments.

Thirty-five years ago I attended a seminar by Screenwriting & Story guru, Robert McKee.  It was fascinating, exhausting and packed with useful information.  I made masses of notes and typed them all up when I got home.  But I had three young children and was writing for Mills & Boon where trying to apply what I had learned conflicted with the specific requirements of the genre.  So my notes got put aside. They went missing during a house move.

Then three days ago I received an email notifying me of the latest series of Story Seminars by Robert McKee. One is taking place in London from May 8th -10th.  I’ve shortened the email slightly. It began with:

‘Less than 1% of writers sell their scripts.’   (Shouldn’t that be ‘Fewer’?)
75% of your effort should go into designing the story. Only 1% of writers realise this.
Invest the time. Do the Work. Write the Truth. The Results Will Follow.
Story Seminar Content springs from these premises:
Story is about principles not rules
about archetypes not stereotypes
about eternal, universal forms, not formulas
about thoroughness not shortcuts
about the realities not the mysteries of writing
about mastering the art, not second-guessing the marketplace
about respect, not disdain for the audience
about originality, not chasing trends.
It goes well beyond the essential mechanics of screenwriting, and will elevate your writing from an intellectual exercise to an emotional one; transforming the craft into an art.’

I was seriously tempted.   The cost of the seminar plus rail fare plus at least two nights in London would be eye-wateringly expensive, even so...

Then I remembered that many years ago I bought a book called  ‘45 Master Characters.’  It describes in depth mythic models and shows how you can use and adapt them to create original characters. I read it when I bought it and it has been sitting on my ‘Books on Writing’ shelf ever since. 

I got it down and began reading. It covered much of the ground promised by the Story Seminar. Even better, I didn’t have to travel anywhere.

As I read I had a ‘light-bulb’ moment. Things that had felt stuck suddenly shifted and ideas started flowing. While I scribbled notes, I could feel that lovely bubbling excitement that comes when your gut tells you you’re on the right track.  All because of a marketing email. 
The crocuses?  Simply to celebrate spring. 

Jane Jackson.    www.janejackson.net

3 comments:

Elizabeth Hawksley said...

Welcome back, Jane. I'm really pleased that things are moving in a positive direction for you.

On the grammatical point: you are quite right. it should definitely be 'fewer' and not 'less'. My mother, who was very keen on correct grammar, used to say, 'Less cheese, fewer biscuits' if I ever got it wrong.

If you cut off a slice of cheese that leave less cheese for other people. If you take a biscuit from the tin, that leaves fewer biscuits in the tin. I find it helps.

Georgie Wickham said...

Thanks so much for this - I went off to find 45 Master Characters, and it is tremendously useful. Luckily, I don't think I agree with all of it, so I still feel like my own woman when I'm writing, but the basic points are super-sensible.

Thanks for the lead!

Jane Jackson said...

Thanks, Elizabeth. I think of it as less in size, fewer in number. This has certainly been an up and down week. I am looking forward to a quiet time!

I agree with you, Georgie. I have cherry-picked those elements within the archetypes that give my characters greatest depth and the best opportunities for growth and change within the framework of the story.