Yesterday, on day one, I contemplated buying an umbrella since I’d left mine at home. None of the ones offered in Hollins’ book store were small enough to fit in my backpack, so I opted not to buy one.
Later in the afternoon the skies opened and dropped buckets of water. For a couple of hours. I hung around after a lecture in the hopes of scoring a ride back to my dorm, knowing if I hiked through the rain, I’d be sick in a day or so. It turns out I got a ride from another former FAA-er who is attending the Advanced Novel Workshop. He was a speechwriter for a former administrator, and after chatting we figured out our paths had crossed before. I arrived back at the dorm relatively dry, and he was quite the gentleman–walking me to the door and holding the umbrella over me.
Because, as I well know, knights in shining armor are rare, this morning, I went to the book store and purchased a magic, green, rain-warding-off umbrella, and it’s been sunny all day long.
Today’s craft lecture was “Things Writers Can Write Besides Just Stories, Novels, and
Poems,” conducted by my workshop instructor, Pinckney Benedict. And being Pinckney Benedict, we weren’t treated to a mere lecture. There were TV show trailers, movie excerpts, graphic novels about the king of the hillbillies, interactive computer games, and a musical adaptation of The Scarlet Letter, all creations of Pinckney’s. And they served to show us there is a world beyond the novel, story, or poem, and that it’s perfectly all right as writers to play.
Play is a big part of Benedict’s workshop, Stretching Your Fiction. Paracosm is a new word I learned, and it means “a prolonged fantasy world invented by children.” Benedict explained that writers, as children, were big into “Let’s pretend…” All our friends grew out of that stage, but we didn’t. Keeping play in our writing is embracing paracosm, and, as writers, that’s a good thing.
Today Pinckney reminded us what all our stories have to contain: The Agon, aka the central struggle in a drama or work of fiction, i.e., the conflict. A key component we often overlook. We may think it’s there, but when we examine the story closer, it’s weak or missing.
We did a practice reading, learned about eucatastrophe, and critiqued two participants’ stories, but the best part of the workshop are Pinckney’s riffs on craft. As far as I’m concerned we could sit for eight hours every day and just listen to him. The man is an MFA on two legs.
What is eucatastrophe? It’s when a story builds up that something horrific is going to happen, but a wonderful, beautiful thing happens instead. That’s eucatastrophe, much like my blog post early yesterday and the one today. I’d completely built myself up for something bad to happen, but, instead, it’s becoming something wonderful and beautiful.