This past Monday, I had my first discussion with my mentor! Since we had been conversing through email, this was the first time I had had a conversation with him, and let me just say that the second I heard the phone ring, I was ready to hide it in my desk and pretend I wasn’t there. But first-time nerves aside, the second I picked up, I had no regrets. Robert was, in a word, amazing! In his general overview, he started out with what was great in my novel (dialogue and the intensity of the dramatic scenes) before getting into the ways I could improve the story and its lay out (juxtaposition in the plot and more details/explanations about the characters). All through the talk, I felt confident and reassured about my work, especially about how it would turn out by the end of this project. We finished the discussion with my first assignment:
- Rewrite the first 5-10 pages of the story. This time, try to open with action/conflict and focus on the details/specifics: How does the government agency work? Who are the people who work for it? What are the people like? What kind of vehicle are the characters riding in? What are they doing/feeling?
- Read the openings of his books, Deadrise and Nitro Express (which were both great, I might add).
I will also share an excerpt from this assignment in the up and coming weeks.
Due to the variety of points my mentor and I discussed in those forty-five minutes, I won’t be able to touch on them all in this post. That being said, I will probably go into each of them at length in separate postings as my mentor and I discuss them more thoroughly in the future. For now, I’d like to focus on one of the highlights of our discussion.
My favorite point we covered this week was my job as the writer, and that’s to be the “tension and conflict maker.” When looking from the reader’s perspective, I needed to think about if I was serving my audience well enough and if I was creating a compelling plot. The advice he gave me on this was to look for the comfortable spots in my story and to make them uncomfortable. If my character was undercover and just sitting in the park, try putting her on a telephone pole and disguising her as a repair man as it’s thundering and raining outside, the risk of being struck by lightning running high. Though that’s not exactly what happens in my book, the point still stands. The higher the tension and risk, the more interesting the story is. Not only that, but the reader gets to know the characters better by how they respond to and solve the problems they face.
Just as there are quotes of the day, I’d like to start sharing my favorite quotes with you. And this week, my favorite quote came from my mentor. Tying in with the lesson for the week, as he put it so fabulously, “Put your character up a tree and just throw rocks at her!”
This project has been off to a great start and I’m sure more great things will come as we get deeper into my work!