Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The problem of the story, a driving force.

As promised, today I am going to talk about the writing conference I went to - the league of Utah Writers Roundup.

The best part about it was meeting awesome blogging friends --

From left to right Abby, David, and me.

But I learned so much too! I want to share some of my knowledge with you so I am going to be doing these posts in four part series. Today (as you may have guessed from the title) we are going to talk about problem in our story.

If you haven't heard of John Brown it's high time you looked him up. Not only did he write this book -

But he is a great speaker as well. He compared the problem in the story to the engine of the car. If you don't have a problem you aren't going anywhere.

Yes, we need to have Character, setting, plot, and text, but without the problem there is nothing to drive the story forward.

He gave some great examples to prove his point. In Jurassic Park if there where no dinosaurs what would the story be? Everyone goes to the zoo, the end.

More so than that, problem is what can help us through plot holes. If we ever come to place in our books when we say "what happens next?" we should look at the problem and make a decision based on that. Then will have no problems writing a cohesive story.

Now, not all problems have to be as obviously threatening as a dinosaur out to kill everyone but there can be more subtle ways of creating tension. Here are the three categories John mentioned to us.

1. Danger or Threat - Think Jurassic Park and Hunger Games.
2. Hardship/ Lack of Opportunity - Think Beautiful Mind and Jane Austen
3. Mystery - Think National Treasure and Da vinci Code

Of course, most stories combine more than one element of these.

What I took from it: When writing, we should think less about what we want to achieve and more about how the characters would handle their situation and what problems they are faced with.

What kind of problem is your favorite to read?


Just another reminder about the awesome party/giveaway coming up this Friday for the Life List Club. DON'T MISS IT!


Humberto Dib said...

Hi, I just popped in to say hello, great blog, congratulations!
I'll follow you.
You can visit mine if you feel like.
Cheers from Argentina!

Logan said...

Its funny - but even on some of the books that I've read recently -- this is a continuing problem for many. Readers are smart and if something is missing or doesn't make sense, they'll pick up on it. Now as an aspiring writer, I find it's harder to make sure that all the necessary parts are there in the story. Sounds like a good conference.

Hannah Kincade said...

ooh, I love stories in those three categories and with all three of those categories.

I adore that cover of John Brown's book. It's pretty fantastic.

Aubrie said...

Wow, that book has a great cover!

So neat to meet blogging friends. I hope to do the same one day.

Chantele Sedgwick said...

YAY!! You met Abby! She's in my critique group and she's AWESOME! :D I was so sad I couldn't go. I'm definitely going to Storymakers next year though. ;)

Joanne said...

Brown made some interesting points, thanks for sharing. I like reading about internal conflict, the type found in family dramas, or relationship dilemmas, that sort of thing.

cherie said...

Sounds like it was a great workshop. And btw, can I just say you're absolutely cute in that picture? How fun to meet blogging friends!

I think conflict or problem is an integral part to any story--even children's books. Without conflict, there is no story. This ties in with character goals. Your character has to have a goal, and the conflict needs to drive the character away from their goal.

Thanks for sharing this with us, Jen!

Nisa said...

1 and 3 are my favorite kinds of problems. What a great experience. Thanks for sharing it with us!

Laura Josephsen said...

Thank you for sharing this! Looking at the problem is a great way to help pinpoint what to do next.

Cortney Pearson said...

Some good points! I've heard it said you always want to say, "No," to your characters. I love the problems that come after someone lays a rule in the story and you just know the rule is going to get broken, but you can't see how it will possibly work out. Like J.K. Rowling saying in book one that Gringotts is impossible to break into, but what does Harry do? The impossible! Those are my favorite problems.

Abby Fowers said...

YAY for the writers conference. I loved that class. He was a great speaker and so much fun to listen to. I learned so much. I can't wait to read his book.

Jenny S. Morris said...

Sounds like it was a lot of fun, and great advice.

Small Town Shelly Brown said...

Yay! Fabulous happy blogger friends! Great picture folks!!

And thanks for the tips. I love a good recap. They help more than I think people think, so thanks for taking the time to write it down :)

Oh, and I can't watch North and South, yet. I told myself not to watch it until I have read it. And I'm just not someone to cross.

L.G.Smith said...

Keeping the tension up in a novel is so hard. I think I rely on danger and mystery the most in my writing. It's probably what I like to read too.

Glad you had a good time and got to meet some fellow bloggers. :)

catherinemjohnson.wordpress.com said...

I'm havin problems with tension in my story at the moment. Great post!

Ava Jae said...

Sounds like you had a great time!

I'm a little obsessed with the Danger/Threat problem. I'm relatively sure all of my favorite books have this problem in them somewhere. Which is probably why my WIPs have it all the time too...

Donna K. Weaver said...

I frequently read books to my hubby, and he struggles with health problems. Since he has enough "problems" he gets tired of reading them in books, but I have to remind him that when the conflict is over so is the book.

Sara Szatmary said...

Sounds like an awesome conference!

Isabelle Thornton said...

Oh man. I don't know. My hormones are too messed up right now...I need positive all the way.
I love suspense very much :)
Glad you enjoyed the conference :)

Sarah Pearson said...

I'm so jealous that you, David and Abby got to meet up. Looking forward to your next posts :-)

Christa said...

I love dark, psychological problems. Head games are so my bag! Good conference talk.

Michael Offutt, Evolved Monkey said...

John Brown is just repeating all the stuff that Orson Scott Card has been saying for years. He went to all of Orson's workshops that he ran and became a professional writer. But all that advice goes back to the Hugo and Nebula award winner O.S.C.

enndy said...

awesome author as Dan Brown

Brenda Sills said...

Hello! Hello! Thanks for coming over to my blog and telling me you wish you had said hi at the conference! I'm in the same crazy boat! I totally didn't recognize you over there and I was deeply chagrined that I didn't get to meet you in person and YOU WERE RIGHT THERE, ONLY 39 INCHES AWAY!

Next time, my friend, next time! :D

The East Coaster said...

Danger or Threat for sure...all day long and twice on Sunday, girl!