Heart of the West Writing Conference

This morning, I spoke at the Heart of the West Writing Conference, a conference for the Utah chapter of Romance Writers of America.  I was able to talk about one of my favorite subjects--Point of View and the Choice Cycle.

For those of you who haven't heard of the Choice Cycle before, it's a system that I've developed through years of study, writing, and editing to help writers keep a clear hold on point of view.  Clear point of view strengthens the reader's connection with the main character, and therefore makes them more invested in the story you're telling.  This emotional connection is key to sympathy, interest, and holding your reader's attention so that they won't put your book down. We read to feel something, after all, and readers will feel more if they are able to experience the point of view character's journey with them.

I won't go into detail about the choice cycle here, because I'm currently editing an e-book about the subject, to be published in cooperation with http://www.eschlerediting.com I'll let you all know when the book is ready for purchase.

Here are a few things I touched on--besides the choice cycle--at the conference today.

If I were to put together a "standard works for writers," I would include the following books:

Techniques of the Selling Writer, by Dwight V. Swain

Scene & Structure, by Jack M. Bickham

Characters & Viewpoint, by Orson Scott Card

Hooked, by Les Edgerton

and for Romance writers, On Writing Romance, by Leigh Michaels

We discussed the self-concept and how it is created throughout a person's lifetime.  The self-concept is based on our personalities, how we are raised, what our values are, and culminates into one sentence describing what we think of ourselves--how we define who we are.  The self-concept is at the center of everything a character does, and influences all the choices he makes.  When the character is faced with a challenge at the beginning of the story, the challenge has to hit them where it really hurts--it has to challenge how they define themselves.

In the case of romance, the romantic interest may be the person who presents that challenge.

We also discussed interesting ways to develop a character.  I provided the following list of questions to ask yourself when creating your characters--questions with a psychological and developmental twist to help make your characters realistic, flawed, and very human.

Consider the following questions for each of your main characters:
Is your character able to make choices and take risks? 

How far is your character willing to go to get what he/she wants? 

What is one thing your character WON’T do?  Why?  Would this character vacillate on this standard if presented with the choice between their values and what they love most (their romantic interest)? 

What is your character most afraid of?  (Hint—your character will have to face this greatest fear or the story will fall flat.)

How does everyone else in the story feel about your main character?  What is his/her reputation?  Has your character earned this reputation?

How does your character deal with stress?  He/she needs a physical outlet—coffee drinker? Runner? Soap Opera watcher?  Fiction?  Ice Cream?  Yoga? Reality TV? Secret hideaway?

What is your character’s self concept?  How does it differ from his/her reputation?  How does it differ from who your character really is?  Which view of your character (the reputation or the self-concept) is more realistic? What does your character's romantic interest know about this reputation? Or about the actual self-concept? 

How do you feel about your character?  How do you think readers will feel about him/her?  Remember that we read to feel emotion.  

After your characters are created, use choice cycles to put the characters together, have them interact in their environment, provide external and internal conflict, and control the pacing of your story.  The choice cycle can help you do everything from create a meaningful setting to reveal information about both your hero and heroine, and build tension to a satisfying climax.

It was a great experience to speak at the conference!  Thanks to Jewel Adams, this year's Utah chapter president, and to my friend, Ann Bracken, Utah chapter secretary, for arranging the experience!

For more information and awesome help with any writing tips or services, visit eschlerediting.com


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