Storytellers from all genres share a common goal: to create a work that is both relatable and unique. In her introduction, guest speaker and poet Mary Murphy advised attendees to “show your reader something they have not thought about.” This doesn’t require elaborate imagery, she explained. Utilizing a common item or situation can make it easier for the reader to engage.
Explore the World (In The Backyard)
Part of finding the unique is viewing life from different vantage points. Though the sameness of the daily grind can make that difficult, a writer needn’t take a year off to backpack across Europe. Murphy suggested simply going to a yard sale or antique shop. While there, listen to the people. Look at the items; consider the smells. “Is there something or someone there you can write a story about?”
When travel is not feasible, food can be another great way to widen horizons. Ethnic restaurants or grocery stores can expose one to different methods of cooking, as well as new scents, flavors or spices. Mary urged audience members to ask questions of the staff. Servers can offer valuable insight into how a dish is prepared or the way it is intended to be eaten.
Many authors focus on creating a perfect super character, but Murphy urged the audience to not neglect the power of the regular person. Though they may not be a saint or a superhero, everyone has something that makes them unique. It is important to consider items or mannerisms that define a character.
Mary mentioned she often keeps a pen in her hand, even while teaching or speaking. Gilligan always wore the same hat; Columbo had a certain coat. These “quirks” can be easy to overlook when crafting a plot, but adding them can make a character all the more realistic.
Write With Others
Murphy urged members to find a group to write with then be prepared to forgive. After nursing a story through to the final draft, emotions can run high if it doesn’t garner rave reviews. The outside perspective is crucial, even if it stings at first.
Bringing It Home
Following a question and answer session, Murphy concluded the presentation with two selections from her book Blama: Sound of the Wounded Word.
Submitted by: Jessica Trippe