MARCH OWL | Spell Casting: an introduction to the craft of writing with Karina Coldrick

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Hindsight is 20:20 by Karina Coldrick

When I decided I wanted to shift careers and become a writer, I made a big mistake. One single assumption that cost me years of thrashing around with grammar and punctuation and throttling my creativity. If I had a time-turner and could change one thing, it’d be this: become a storyteller.

Lisa Cron, in her book Story Genius, has a chapter subtitled ‘Everything We Were Taught About Writing is Wrong.’ It’s worth reading if only to understand the specifics of why Fifty Shades of Grey was the biggest selling book of the last decade. The clue, however, is in that last sentence. 

Image description: It says’ best-selling author, not best-writing author – Robert Kiyosaki

Don’t get me wrong, wordsmithing is great. If poor prose makes your reader stop to roll her eyes one too many times, she’ll put the book down. I love beautiful phrasing and lyrical imagery, but their job is to deepen the story, not be a pretty, quotable bauble. If a reader is pulled out of the tale to admire my sentence construction, she’s not anxious enough about what happens next.

The Trick to Gluing Eyeballs to a Page

Past me went on to spend years learning about plot, characterisation, conflict, and voice. These are vital tools in writing a novel. You can’t glue eyeballs without them. 

There is a knack to pacing, in having a sense of when to slow down and elaborate on setting or backstory or emotion. (Tip: it’s not in the first few pages.) It also takes time to develop your voice – the authorial tone that’s uniquely you – and find a match to the genre or sub-genre it suits. 

As for conflict, well, for years I thought that was storytelling. It’s not. It’s plot. Take your character’s worst fear and make them face it. The best stories, the classics, all do this.

What if Woody is no longer Andy’s favourite toy but is replaced by Buzz who is so much cooler?

What if Elizabeth realises she loves Mr Darcy at the same time her family’s reputation is about to be ruined?

What if your dream is to save the galaxy and your dad turned out to be Darth Vader?

The problem is, plot is useless unless your reader cares about Woody or Lizzy or Luke. My mentor, Valerie Parv, had to bash this into my brain when I had notions about anti-heroes or unlikable heroines. I still struggle with the balance between creating realistic vs aspirational protagonists, because, I gotta admit, I love me some flaws.

The answer would seem to be: make bad things happen to good people. This helps but it’s half the battle. The real trick, the big secret, to engaging readers so that they’ll keep on reading just one more chapter until they finish the book at 2am… 

Take my course in Spell Casting and find out!

Nah. Too cruel. Don’t worry, I’ll tell you now.

The trick is to make the reader feel the protagonist’s struggle as if it was their own. As if they are inside that person’s head, experiencing their world, their thoughts and their emotions.

All writing craft supports this fundamental brain-hack. Yes, Deep Point of View is the big buzz right now, but it’s not a magic wand. Deep Point of View is deeply boring without a structured plot, character motivation, high stakes, a compelling voice and the fulfillment of reader expectations. In short, without all the elements of a bloody good story. 

I’ll be explaining how each of these elements work in my March OWL.

Image description: You don’t need to be a witch to cast a spell, you just need to tell a story well

Spellcasting: an introduction into the craft of writing with Karina Coldrick

RWA Course Dates: 2 March to 27 March 2020

Cost: RWA Member—$55. Non-RWA Member—$88. 

Venue: Online – RWA Moodle Platform

For more info and bookings

Author Karina Coldrick

About the presenter

An internationally award-winning writer, Karina Coldrick started penning Empire Strikes Back fan fiction as a seven year-old and hasn’t stopped writing since.

Originally from Perth, Australia, she met her husband-to-be when studying in the UK. After deciding they needed castles more than sunshine, Karina and her family moved to the Emerald Isle where they now live near the river Shannon. She writes romantic fantasy and contemporary romance.

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