Recently at my 'regular' job, I was asked to facilitate a fiction writer's workshop. This wouldn't be for employees but for customers who come in to the operation to utilize our programs and services. Now other than conducting training sessions on work related issues, I don't usually get the chance at work to dip into the creative side. So here was an opportune moment to do something more enjoyable. I planned out a three session workshop and figured we'd see what happened.
Seven eager people attended the first class, anxious to learn more about the writing process. I'm no expert, but since I've been writing for a long time and have been fortunate enough to publish both short stories and novels, it was a chance to offer some suggestions and guidance. The first week, we talked about characters and how to make them memorable and different. I handed out copies of a profile sheet that I've used for years, where the writer can fill in as much detail as they'd like when creating a character. Knowing that staring at a blank computer screen or a blank page can be intimidating, I worked up the opening to a short story (with some help from author M S Spencer) took it to a point of conflict and stopped. I gave this out as an assignment and explained it was up to them as writers to continue the action. They could change the narrative, introduce new characters or whatever they pleased. We would read their results aloud next time.
The second class had four new people who were quickly brought up to speed. Most of the others read their efforts. I was pleased to see so many different paths were taken, or as one guy said "A few twists down the road." After everyone had a chance, we discussed the importance of a settings, including the time period when the story takes place. Similar to the character profile, I gave them all a sheet for creating settings. That week's assignment was to describe a setting for their own story.
Week three brought even more people to the party. Several read their efforts at settings, one of whom went on to incorporate that into a humorous short story that had everyone laughing. We talked about plot, using humor even in the most serious stories and how to weave conflicts into a chapter or a short story.
As we reached the end of our time, I was pleasantly surprised by the reaction. The group begged to continue. 'Three weeks is not enough', one fellow complained. 'This is just like a book. You've got us interested and wanting to keep going.'
After working out a few logistics, I was able to grant their wish. Now we will continue to meet periodically but the focus will be on providing them the opportunity to workshop their own efforts and gain valuable feedback from the others. I'll be curious to see how it all shakes out as we follow those 'few twists down the road'.
My own writing efforts were rewarded again this week with the release of "Fleeing Beauty". This is the third installment in the Jamie Richmond series. I hope you'll check it out. And if you get a chance, stop by M S Spencer's blog to see what she's been up to.