Friday, July 10, 2009

Thursday night Readercon Panel: Character..Breakthrough..Mind

From 9 to 10 the crowd and I were at a panel discussion called: The Origin of Character in Breakthrough of the Mind. It seemed to be on how characters can run away with a story and do things that the author hadn't planned for them in the first place.

The most interesting anecdote on this was told by Peter Straub. He was writing a story about two families. His purpose was to contrast the life of two boys being raised in different trying environments, one rich and one poor. Across the street from one of the boys lived a cranky old man. The kind of cranky old man always yelling at kids to get off the grass. Eventually the cranky old man turned out to have a very interesting past and story. He took over the novel. The novelist talked about having to throw away pages and pages that didn't belong in the story any more, and that his wife complained, "those were the best pages."

Writers talked about the "gift story" that would show up as inspiration. Ellen Hand had such a story occur to her about 20 years ago. One morning she began to think about a woman who saw Elvis. She started writing at 10 am, finished at 10pm, mailed it off the next day, and it was published. She says that these gift stories occur only once in every eight years or so. The young writer Daryl Gregory said that he's still waiting for his.

The moderator Jim Kelly kept referring to the voice of his subconscious that tells him how to write as "the little guy". Soon the entire panel was referring to their "little guy."

The panel ended with responses to a question as to how to silence the inner critic when the critic suppresses your writing instead of helping you improve it. Some talked of the value of deadlines, so you can tell the critic you don't have time to listen.

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