A conference in beautiful San Diego, California is never a bad thing, but RWA’s National Conference (July 13 – 16) exceeded my expectations. They put together an incredible experience full of informal chat sessions, publisher spotlights, and a wide variety of info-packed workshops–from exploring the elements of fiction writing to addressing business issues and the challenges facing writers today.
I kept notes throughout the week and would like to share some of the wise words from the fabulous experts. (This is part one of a two-part post.)
Name of Workshop/Presenter: followed by tips and tricks
Build a Character, Build a Book (Christie Craig, a.k.a. bestselling-author CC Hunter): Christie was so fun and engaging! She cautioned, “Don’t info dump. It makes the character seem socially inept.” She advised to create questions for the readers by “dropping hints and having thought flashbacks, because it will make the readers care and want to turn the page.”
Young Adult Chat (with acclaimed authors Ally Carter, PC Cast, Pintip Dunn, and Jenny Han): This group of acclaimed YA authors discussed the Young Adult romance sub-genre. Some tips included, “don’t chase trends” and “always be writing more.” All agreed that happy-for-now endings are just fine for the YA crowd. Teens want optimism and hope in romantic stories.
Using Character Archetypes to Find your Story (with USA Today best-selling author Hope Ramsay): Archetypes are ancient, universal patterns of behavior. Hope discussed how archetypes (such as the Hero, the Judge or the Crone) can be shortcuts for character development. “By using a pattern or collection of traits that readers can recognize, you can build interesting characters that readers care about.” Hope recommended Caroline Myss’ Archetype Cards to help with character building. You can find a link on Amazon to buy the cards by clicking HERE.
Writing Great Characters (award-winning author Susan Elizabeth Phillips) Susan said, “Romance needs to emotionally engage the reader because falling in love is so intimate.” She went on to give five key tips for developing great characters that will pull at the heartstrings of the reader. 1) Engage the reader’s sympathy for the character; 2) Create flawed characters (perfect characters are boring); 3) Make sure your main characters develop and grow; 4) Make sure the actions of your characters are well motivated and not random; 5) Craft strong individual voices for your characters to make them shine.
Be the Voice (New York Times best-selling author Erin Quinn): Erin described voice as how you see the world and how you filter it through your characters. She advised writers to dig deep, because “the sky is rarely just blue.” She wants writers to show feeling through what the character sees/experiences in the world of the book. As writers, we should “start big and think big.” Editing is easier than adding. My favorite quote by Erin, “In the first draft there’s a thousand bats in the cave. In the last draft, just one.” Voice impacts the mood and tone of every book.
Stay tuned for more tips and tricks from RWA’s National Conference in my next blog post!