Uncle Orson’s Literary Boot Camp: Day 1

Exhaustion. Elation. Yesterday was amazing, though long. I have no idea how Card, who is not a young man, can do these sorts of days. All I had to do was sit, taking notes and my butt and hand were killing me by lunchtime.

We started easily enough, talking about naming characters and working through Conflict vs. Struggle, how the “hook” of a story is a lie and really all you need in a really good story is a Reason to Care.

We also covered Viewpoint (which I was fairly confident in– thanks to Mrs. Mattson’s AP English a million years ago!) and Causality in stories, which has already been helpful with the assignments we’ve tackled so far. Because yes even though it’s the first day, we’ve already had assignments. 

There are 4 questions to Causality:

Why? (the mechanical reason)

Why? (the motive)

What result?

How?

And then, because nothing has just one cause: Else? (Why else? How else? What else?)

Finally we went over the different structures of fiction, what he calls MICE: Milieu, Idea, Character and Event. I’m not going to go into detail on most of this, cuz it’s in his book Characters and Viewpoint, or if you’re really interested and really impatient, you can google it. LOTS of other people on the interwebs have talked about all of this stuff. MICE in particular is popular, as it’s basically just 4 different ways to structure your story. A good jumping off point if you’re unsure where to go and/or where to stop.

For some reason, though I get all of them and could identify a story in a minute, I had a REALLY HARD TIME using it for myself. Which is disappointing because our assignment last evening was to, using only these 5 cards, write down a full and complete story idea– The Promise and The Fulfillment (or the beginning & ending).

Is there anything worse than blank cards staring at you in the face?

Is there anything more terrifying than a blank page…or 5 mini blank pages…?

How we got to those story ideas could be a whole blog post in and of itself, but since I’m trying to quickly summarize the entire 10-hour+ day, here we go:

To come up with the story ideas we were partnered up, those of us without cars together with people who had transportation. Orem is not what you would call a walking-friendly city and we needed to go out and about.

Two of our cards were based on research from the library, two cards from general everyday observations, and one card based on an interview with a complete stranger. Janae, my super sweet partner (and driver!), and I headed to the mall to talk to random strangers for interviews. It was the part of the assignment I dreaded the most, so I was glad she suggested tackling it first.

We met the most adorable young, just newly engaged couple and had a totally unique and unexpected conversation. It was deep and meaningful and we were sitting across from a Macy’s having it. Surreal.

After getting back to the hotel I ate some dinner, chatted with Kyle for a brief moment and got to work expecting it to take me a couple hours. It took 5.5. Four and a half I accomplished Monday night and 1 hour this morning.

But I got it done. And I got some sleep.

photo

And I’m not entirely sure I even did the assignment right, but I have these full little cards and that’s something. (There’s stuff on the back too!)

Most importantly though: I’m happy. In general, I enjoy work. I especially enjoy work that I love and working towards a tangible goal. I’m doing both and I am so happy.

OSC goes on a lot of tangents, which are generally refreshing and entertaining. My favorite was when he said the Daleks (from Dr. Who) were a ridiculous villain and plotline and should be eliminated from the series. I very nearly stood up and cheered for. I’ve hated those rolling salt and pepper shakers ever since the first episode I saw them in.

Also, one last note: Weirdest part of the day was when I sat down across from Jane at breakfast. She’s one of only 3 others that I found before coming out and we had emailed back and forth. Then I went into the room and sat down behind TBK, one of the others. At break I discovered I was sitting next to Martin, the third. I didn’t know any of them before and only had a vague sense of what they looked like from their blogs. And before you think it’s a small group, there are about 50 people in the room, 4 rows of tables. I’m sure someone who likes math could figure out the likelihood of me bumping into any of them on the first day, let alone first thing on the first day.

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