November is famous for being National Novel Writing Month, a challenge between friends that expanded into the creation of worldwide communities where writers endeavour to write 50,000 words in 30 days. There are writing marathons, write-ins in cafés, and a lot of pep talks to keep everyone going.
Saturday, November 9th was a writing marathon for the brave and crazy souls who attempt NaNoWriMo. During our workshop, we did not try to write 50,000 words in one afternoon, but we did try to come up with a complete story.
1 – writing ideas: I had prepared bits of paper for three categories of essential building blocks: characters, time, and place. The age and sex of characters was predetermined (there was one boy/one girl, one teenage boy/girl, one man/woman, one old man/woman) but I had left some fields blank: what they want/what they fear/what they like/what they don’t like. Participants had to fill those in. They also had to choose a time and place. We had a range from « 2 in the morning, mid-November », in Saarbruecken » to « a shepherd’s cottage in the mountains, beginning of the 20th century ». The papers were then put at the center of the table and shuffled. Everyone had to pick a character, a time and a place, and so write a story based on somebody else’s suggestions.
Than we moved on to writing the story proper…
2 – Beginning: this was the exposition. At the end of the exposition, the character got what s/he wanted. Yes, this was not a bug. This was meant to be.
3 – Middle: …but getting what they want leads to their worst fear coming true (ah ah!). At the end of the middle section, the character was in the worse mess the writer could think of.
4 – End: now a resolution had to be found.
We all had a lot of fun with the prompts. The problem was not finding inspiration, but getting everyone to stop at the appointed time! In the end, each of us produced a full story.