Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Highlights Workshop: Day 3

Hello everyone!  Internet seems to be doing much better today.  (We were starting to feel cut-off from society without our precious emails and YouTube!)

Ah...it's so peaceful and pretty here!
Today was day 3 of the Highlights Workshop and we're settling into our routine.  We have mornings free to write followed by an afternoon of two peer critiques and our workshop.  (My peer critique is tomorrow--yikes!)  Actually, hearing what your peers think of your work is a really rewarding experience and you can learn so much about your strengths and weaknesses.  (On the flipside, giving peer critiques is helpful, too, because you always end up learning something from someone else's strengths and weaknesses.  Cool, huh?)  The two attendees we critiqued today were great sports and we all benefited from the constructive discussion.  (Children's writers are the best critiquers--we're never nasty or destructive as we provide helpful feedback!)

Due to one of our faculty feeling a bit under the weather, our workshop topic was postponed and replaced by a general group discussion.  As we rambled on about this amazing book and that awesome author (as we writers often do when we flock together), we stumbled onto the topic of "beats" and a lengthy chat ensued.  I was actually unfamiliar with this specific term, but it basically describes the points in a story where a momentary break occurs and you see the character's physical/visual/emotional reaction to something in the story.  This is most clearly seen during dialogue in between when characters are saying something.  (Think taglines and supporting details.)   For example:

"Do you know what time it is?" Jack asked.
His stomach growled loudly, hoping lunch was near.
"Let me see," Jill replied.
Jack's impatience rose as she fumbled through her backpack looking for her cellphone.  He fought the urge to grab the granola bar poking out of one of the pockets, tapping his foot as the seconds ticked by.
"About five til noon," Jill finally said.
Jack's stomach burbled with relief.  "Thank goodness," he said.

In this instance, the beats are the parts in between the dialogue where we know how Jack feels (hopeful, then impatient then bordering on kleptomania and finally reaching relief) as well as physically reacts (stomach noises, foot tapping).  Not the best example, but you get the point. :)  By incorporating beats, you can add/enhance anything in your story from interest to mood to characterization and everything in between.  If you don't have any beats, you likely have a "talking heads" situation--aka big chunks of dialogue where people talk, no one reacts, and you often lose your reader.  (Never a good thing...)

Conveniently, I was just about to tackle a point in my revisions where I needed to add in some emotional beats to a deep discussion between two of my characters.  How fortuitous!

Of course, I can't forget to tell you our scrumptious meals of the day!  (Poor Jack's rumbling tummy is making me hungry for a nighttime snack!)  Breakfast was homemade fancy scrambled eggs (no clue what delicious seasonings were in them) and blueberry muffins; lunch was tuna and egg salad sandwiches with cream of asparagus soup; our workshop snack was oven-baked kale and crackers with onion dip; and dinner was portobello mushrooms (I opted out of the salmon) with parmesan cauliflower and peach-berry sorbet for dessert.  Mmmmmm.... 

Yipes!  Our power just went out in the thunderstorm that's pelting outside!  Better post this before the internet dies again!

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