It was a Dandi Conference!
I spent last week at BYU Writers Conference and had a dandi time. It was a dandi time because my teacher was Dandi Mackall, an amazing author who has published over 400 books. I have forgotten the exact count but I think it is around 470. Eighteen of those books were published last year.
It was an incredible opportunity to spend a week with Dandi. She was warm and witty and delightful. What a treat it was to sit around the table with her and sample her ideas and her wisdom. I brought home new friends and a new bag of tricks. I don’t suppose Dandi will remember me, but I will never forget her. I will remember many things about her, but I will especially remember her as a woman of substance.
Here are a few things that I learned from the conference.
1. Know your character. Use this exercise: ___________ is the kind of person who_______________________.
2. Get inside the character’s head. This is our biggest advantage over TV or movies. We get to be inside the character’s head. Make the most of it.
3. Give your character a problem, then make it bigger. Don’t let the solution come too easily. A classic story pattern is to have the problem grow in 3 stages.
4. The climax is the low point.
5. Make sure your character gets to solve his/her own problem. Don't let anyone else do it.
The hands on part of the workshop was eye popping, though it was humbling to hear about the flaws in my own carefully crafted work. Getting past that is important, if you want a great finished product. It’s easy to get discouraged when you find out that your work isn’t as good as you thought it was, but it’s better to be pick up your pencil and try again. It’s actually empowering to know what isn’t working and to have an idea about how to fix it.
I want to say thanks to the awesome writers in my picture book class. They have great ideas and skills and their feedback is so helpful. Writers are a great slice of the human pie. They are creative and caring and they understand synergy. I appreciate the chance to learn from them.
And to Dandi I say: You are incredible. Thank you for sharing a piece of yourself with me. I hope we meet again.