6/18/08: Taos Toolbox, days 10-11: Some have broken under the strain of it

Two critiques Monday, a talk by Walter on characterization, and a talk on Kelly about some reasons that submissions get rejected, leading into a discussion of reversals, the proper use of cliches and stereotypes, and the use of accents and diction to indicate characters’ class. I did a couple of critiques in the afternoon… not quite sure where the time went. There was an exercise I was supposed to do, taking a personal anecdote and expanding it into a story, which I could not do because I couldn’t think of a single anecdote. I’m usually slopping over with anecdotes, but they are invariably triggered by something in the conversation… “hey, think of an anecdote” gets me nothing.

In the evening some of us watched Father Goose (1964, with Cary Grant). Movie night was a little underpopulated because lots of people were trying to complete stories or critiques.

Today we had three critiques, including my lesbian magic plumber story. It was very, very well received. There were some suggested improvements, including building up the growing love between the plumber and the undine, mentioning earlier that undines are incurable romantics, and changing the plumber’s ex (who shows up several times) into several separate exes to demonstrate the plumber’s previous personal history. A few people didn’t understand the references to Hawthorne and U-Hauls.

After that, Walter talked about worldbuilding. Walter’s special tip for creating a world: follow the money! If you understand who raises the food, how it is transported, where it changes hands, and how much it costs, you will have a much better sense of how your invented world works. Also: “Things are the way they are because they got that way.” What is the history of your world? Kelly then talked for a bit about the mainstream story “A Conversation with My Father” by Grace Paley, which I personally didn’t care for. In the afternoon some of us drove to Arroyo Seco, the nearest town, for coffee, gelato, french fries, and a little souvenir hunting (I didn’t find anything).

In the evening, most of us attended a round-robin traumatic reading of Micah (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter: Book 13) by Laurell K. Hamilton. We were able to read half the book (in which the main character takes a phone call, drives to the airport, talks with the FBI guys, checks into her hotel, and has sex — yes, that’s all she does in 140 pages), aloud, in only two hours. By explicit request, I read the infamous Chapter 6 using Charlie the Purple Giraffe’s voice for the character of Micah.

If we are lucky we will not be thrown out of the hotel in the morning.


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