Last night I went to the second session of my thriller writing course. We covered characters and a tiny bit on structure, but I had a hard time focussing or getting anything out of the two hours. I didn’t learn anything I didn’t already know, but don’t put my apathy down to this.
It was a bad day to start off with. 26 degrees heat was ambushed at 1:00pm that day by severe winds which took down trees and power lines across Sydney. One of the areas affected was my own small village. We hadn’t lost any trees or lines, but elsewhere not far away, they had. The emergency services turned our power off for us, as a precaution.
My power returned to me only half an hour before having to leave for the course. I had no time to reset clocks, check refrigerators, phones, fishtanks, computers, I left less prepared for the course than I wanted to be.
When I arrived at the train station, the village there was in darkness, having suffered an enforced power cut for the last two-three hours also. I couldn’t purchase any food, as all the shops were in the dark. And my husband was limping in on a train service disrupted by a tree coming down on the line. To top it off, the thunder storms promised half a day ago had finally arrived with pelting rain.
Eventually I made it to the course, whereas a couple just didn’t make an appearance. Everyone else was a little oblivious to the damage the storm had made up further north, more annoyed at the rain.
The stress involved from rushing through a strange day had taken its toll on me. I shivered from getting wet all through the course, and that kind of attitude is never the best for making the most of what I’d paid for. Others in the class were pretty hushed during the session also, although it wasn’t as interactive a lesson as the previous.
The only thing I can say positively is that I was pleasantly surprised to find the quality of writing some of my fellow participants are capable of.
We were asked to do some questioning explorations of a main character, then develop a paragraph on them. I took it at face value, and wrote a paragraph describing a character, a character sketch or synopsis. The teacher asked for volunteers to read out what they had written, and the three that did so – all men – had gone straight into a fictional passage introducing a character, all in different forms.
The first was full of some quite beautiful language and explanations on the background of his character, the second full of beautiful descriptions evoking a startling atmosphere, the third focussed more on dialog and quick action, giving away the writer’s script-filming background.
And in 15 minutes I had learnt the problems with comparitis.
My teacher asked for more volunteers, but I had realised that my interpretation of a paragraph had either been outright wrong, or that I daren’t provide my sketch against such prose. Yes, I could see mistakes in most of what had been written and shared – it was their first draft, and they were keen to get writing, real writing. Who ever wants to stop that kind of passion? Yes, there were too many strings of verbs going on, too much background exposition with a narrator’s voice, not enough detail to actually grasp much about the character.
But they were good. Their writing was gripping, and I couldn’t put myself up to stand beside them.
I know this is a ridiculous notion. Logically, three men provided three very different passages, and I can’t compare one with the other. They have completely different writing styles – one literary, one senses-rich, and one very good at the show don’t tell. But as for my own prose or style, I am simply blind to what it might be.
I’m sure I’ll get over it in time, and settle more eloquently into my own writer’s skin.