Over the weekend I undertook a Speculative Fiction course taught by Marianne de Pierres (MDP) through the New South Wales Writers Centre. I saw a few familiar faces from other Spec Fic courses and got to meet a couple of people I interact with on twitter in person. More importantly I noted that the real New South Wales Writers Centre Stick, had been replaced with an imposter. Which I’m sure you don’t care about at all. “JUST TELL ME WHAT YOU GOT TAUGHT,” you demand “Maybe a little more info about the stick, because we all care about that, but seriously, JUST TELL ME WHAT YOU GOT TAUGHT!” Now of course to get the full benefit of MDP’s wisdom you’ll actually have to go to a MDP workshop yourself. There really is no substitute for the real thing. But I’ll share some takeaways. But seriously, you need to attend a workshop yourself to take it all in.
The course was largely about world building so I’ll give some tips I picked up from that part of the workshop.
In regards to researching to build your worlds MDP says, before writing, during writing, or during editing, is all good. Just do what works for you. There is no best way. The only way to learn what works for you is through trial and error. Which means, you actually need to try different ways and see which one suits. Play to your strengths rather than work to a formula.
Her rules for using your research in your writing are essentially be original, don’t simply rehash, don’t distract the reader with slabs of info, be authentic, and know more details then you actually include. Don’t bore your reader.
Backstory can be the enemy of narrative drive. If the reader doesn’t need to know it, don’t explicitly list it and bore your reader. NEVER BORE YOUR READER!
Be mindful regarding tropes. You have to make choices as you write as to whether you subvert or use tropes. Always be thoughtful, don’t simply bung them in.
Think of your setting as another character. How does it feel to be in it? What are the smells? What is the history? And never forget the food.
The workshop also included segments on narrative drive, blending genres, new media, transmedia and a one hour question time where participants got to ask whatever we wanted. So, as I said earlier, there really is no substitute for attending in person.