‘Tis the morning after the Romance Writers of Australia annual conference and I’m functioning on borrowed brain cells. This time I was far more relaxed than last year, when I had to pitch to Miriam Kriss, but no less excited for my buddies Fiona Lowe, Sharon Arkell, Tracey O’Hara, Rachel Robinson and Allison Withers who were up for awards.
We spent all of Friday with the incomparable Jenny Crusie. She’s every bit as warm, funny and entertaining in life as she is in print. And she even signed my copy of Anyone But You with the inscription “To dear Vanessa, who is a great writer.” Gosh, she’s so smart. How did she know? (I’m kidding – she forced all of us to chant, “I am a great writer,” out loud all weekend.)
Anne Stuart, whose genteel exterior belies a twisted* mind, talked about dark matter of the literary variety: heroes and heroines who maim and murder. If your heroine must commit a crime, make her goals, motivation and conflict clear, said Anne. Give the reader a reason to empathise with the protagonist. Psycho killers are generally boring because often they kill without emotion or reason.
From Allison Rushby I learnt about applying the three-act play/film structure to novel writing. One of my crit crew members, Janette, found it useful to identify the three acts of her ms and major turning points, and then base her editor pitch on it. (P.S. Worked like a charm.)
Dynamic duo Annie West and Anna Campbell unleashed alpha heroes on us. They cleared up a lot of misconceptions about the definition of an alpha male. Very nice of them to use visual aids, like pics of Indiana Jones and James Bond (the latest model) too. In short, a real alpha male can take many forms but he’s never a bully or brute.
Okay, now I have to go cultivate some more brain cells. Tell me, what have you learnt from a conference or workshop?
* Anne Stuart even describes herself as twisted, but she’s really very sweet.