As I promised, here are the highlights of the workshops I attended at last weekend's Master Class writing retreat!
Hooking the Reader: Discussion centered on a story's first page, and what it needs to accomplish. Most important, what details of character and setting emerge? What kind of story is it (what genre)? What hints are placed about the character or plot?
The Heart of the Matter: Talked all about theme. We had to do a pretty thoughtful homework assignment in preparation for this workshop: write the "elevator pitch" (a quick, compelling description of your story), write a 2-sentence summary, write the theme in a few words, write the back cover copy. At the end of it, decide what the "heart" of your book really is. Keep this in front of you all the time that you're writing and revising this story. Remember what is most crucial to this story. Put that on every page or in every chapter.
Plot and Pacing: I loved this one. Write down the 5 most important things that happen in your story. Then look at Freytag's Pyramid, which describes the Inciting Incident (what starts the action/conflict in a story), the rising action (increasing conflicts or tension), the climax, the falling action, and the denouement (final wrap up of all loose ends). Then go back to your 5 important things. Ultimately, they should match the different points of the Pyramid. If they don't, what part(s) of your plot might be missing? The editor giving this workshop also showed a very explicit breakdown of different popular books and how the action rises and leads to a powerful climax and ending.
Character: Use the Myers-Briggs (or any other psychological test) to assess your characters and draw out their strengths, weaknesses, flaws, & tendencies. You can also use the results to see how well you really know your characters. You might think you're writing a strong alpha male hero, but look at his actions & interactions in terms of one of these psychological tests - what other actions could you give him to strengthen the way he comes across to the reader? Do you truly know how he's coming across?
Happy writing, friends!