April Online Workshop


I’m doing the Show & Tellworkshop online again for OCC–not sure it’s good that this seems to be a perennial favorite. However, I took a year off from giving this workshop, and that was good–time always gives perspective (and new things to say).

The interesting thing about this workshop is that most folks get how to “tell” a story, but don’t get that good “telling” takes as much work to craft beautiful prose as does good “showing” (or action).  In fact, I sometimes think a beautiful narrative passage is even more work.  This is a difficult concept to teach, because, it’s like music–you have an ear for it (language or music) or you don’t.  If you don’t there’s no teaching it.

It’s also interesting in that so many writers are hung up on having been told to show more that that’s all they want to focus on.  And the real trick to learn is not just to show, but to show the RIGHT things.  It’s not the details, the actions, that make a character–it’s the right actions.

The other interesting thing will be to see what mix is in the workshop.  There are always more than a few lurkers, which is cool, but it’s not like a classroom where you can look at the quiet ones and know which ones get it and which ones are struggling.  There are a few teacher’s pets who do every assignment and ask tons of questions but I sometimes have the feeling they’re too focused on doing it ‘right’ and that can defeat the point of learning.  There are the difficult ones, because email as a form of communication can leave much to be desired, and sometimes I wonder why these folks signed up for anything since they just seem to want to do things their ways. And then there are the surprises. That’s the best part of any workshop. We’ll see what this one brings.

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2 thoughts on “April Online Workshop

  1. Hi Shannon.

    I just wanted to let you know that I am getting a lot out of your class. At first, I wasn’t totally sure what you meant about highlighting one thing that was important and unique about my character. There were so many things. Yet, they weren’t big things. It took me a while (almost a week) to settle on what was the most important thing. Then today, catching up on comments you made on other’s pieces it hit me. It had been there in front of me the whole time. It seems so obvious now. All I have to do is find the right place in the story to tell the reader this vital bit of info and a lot of the story will naturally unfold from that point forward. (Or so I hope.)

    I’m finding that your course really is making me think and approach writing in a different way. Sometimes I have to read what you’ve written two times and go away and think about it. Then I have to read everyone’s assignments and your comments. Then go away and think. But then, it clicks. And it feels really good when it clicks.

    So, I just want to say, thank you for being so patient. In some cases, you are truly trying to change the course of an ocean liner and that takes time, patience and perseverance. In my case, you are steering me away from fatal icebergs.

    Thank you, keep on Captain!

    Jean Oram

    • That is the right idea — find the right place in the story to tell the reader this vital bit of info…. However, that’s a proces you repeat over and over and over. Sometimes the story will unfold from that point forward. A lot of items, it’s pushing a rock up a muddy hill. The thing is, you never know with your own writing how it’ll turn out. A book that gives you hell can turn out great. A book that you think is wonderful and almost writes itself, no one likes. But, either way, you go on to the next story.

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