On the weekend I attended an inspiring workshop in the Writelinks Workshop Series with Marianne de Pierres.
“She is the award winning author of the acclaimed Parrish Plessis, Sentients of Orion and Peacemaker science fiction series. Marianne is an active supporter of genre fiction and has mentored many writers. She lives in Brisbane, Australia, with her husband and three galahs. Her Night Creatures series, Burn Bright, Angel Arias and Shine Light has been very popular among young adult fiction readers. Marianne is also the Davitt award-winning author of the Tara Sharp humourous crime series under the pseudonym Marianne Delacourt. “ (From Good Reads)
During our two hour workshop we focused on developing ‘settings as characters’ and how to make them best reflect our characters’ emotions.
We examined the ‘strengths and pitfalls of tropes'(they can easily become cliches), the central importance of story even as we work on settings and we gained experience ‘tethering our landscapes to emotions and character.’
Marianne engaged us to listen and pay attention to the topics she was raising through not only the content but the style of her delivery. She did not stand still in one spot at the front but walked up and down the room to engage with us as a group. She was keen to show us, not just tell us about the concepts she was explaining. Her face and hands were expressive.
We read examples silently and aloud. She encouraged us always to be ‘critical readers’.
Marianne explained the concepts of setting as characters using: examples, question and answer and practicals exercises. She had us spend about ten minutes during the session thinking of our own setting and writing it using some of the principles she had introduced us to.
As a group we suggested settings as character and one example that came up was the Tardis! We felt the tardis is an interesting character that is; protective, reliable, unreliable, mysterious, contradictory.
The Secret Garden was another example of a powerful setting reflecting the transformation of its central character’s emotional journey.
Marianne gave us choices of what we might like her to cover towards the end of the session. We chose ‘transmedia’ from the options.
She ended her workshop sharing the many opportunities for writers to develop their stories across platforms in a world where ‘transmedia’ is the future of storytelling.
I’d say this was one of the best discussions and explanations I have heard for personification and am inspired to adopt this into my writing and do some more critical reading looking out for writers who do it well.
A participant asked why people write things that might be challenging to them, that require research, and not just what they know, and to that Marianne, responded with her story of her immense love of astronomy even though it is not her field of expertise and that she just loves writing it.
She encouraged us to surround ourselves with ‘expert friends, ‘ who can educate us about their passions which we share and want to convey in books, rather than just books and online research. Sometimes it is just so much easier to ask someone who knows the field you are trying to write about and they will fill you in on details you need to get right.
Research is an important skill for speculative fiction writers, but it is important not to get ‘lost down the well of research.’ As some point you have to write. Some writers like to research as they go, not before they start writing.
As many of us were writers for children and young adults, she told us how important for us to not make silly mistakes when writing about things we are not expert in but want to have as settings for our books. Children not only deserve that respect but will pick up any mistakes if it is something they love.
I definitely want to read JG Ballard after this workshop!
Here is what I wrote in the session:
My cocoon of glow wormed light swaddles me as if first born,
so quiet, it’s full of heart beats,
and it lights my way to safety within its cold cave walls.
Those outside can’t see it,
because the grass haired roof would confuse them.
It is camouflaged and the oasis of cool within the searing heat
would remain hidden, unless
they knew just where the doorway sang.
(c) June Perkins
I am loving the writer’s workshops through Writelinks, and feel they give me a lot of support to keep developing my writing skills.
I highly recommend this workshop series and have enjoyed the presenters we have had this year. This week I will apply some of the learning from the weekend into a series of short stories, possibly novellas, that I am working on.