Friday, February 18, 2011

Day Two at Life, the Universe and Everything

Since today I was at LTUE from 9am-8pm with the only break to go to one class, this is going to be a heck of a long post. I'll try to keep it interesting with pictures and such.
See? A platypus. Already entertaining.

First Panel: "How to Research, When to Stop, and What to Use" with Dene Low, Scott Parkin, J. Scott Savage, and Eric Swedin.
As this entails, it went over how to research. An idea I have is going to need a whole lot of research, when I get around to it, so this is why I went to this panel (there are abour three or four an hour you can choose to go to). Something that never really crossed my mind that they brought up was talking to people. And after I was like, duh. Of course you can talk to an expert. But I'm a rather shy person and don't think to just go up and talk to people, so this was weird for me. They also talked about different helpful websites (yes, Wikipedia actually can be helpful).

For the 10am hour, I didn't go to a panel. Instead, I went to James Dashner's reading.
Oh, but this was not just any reading. If you don't know, James Dashner wrote The Maze Runner and its sequel, The Scorch Trials. Both of them are fantastic books and if you're into YA and sci-fi dystopia, definitely look into them!
Anyway, the final book of the trilogy, The Death Cure comes out October 11, 2011. But today, I heard Mr. Dashner read the first three chapters and saw the cover, which has not been revealed yet.

I did take a picture of the cover on my phone, but I'm not posting it because
1. It's from my phone, so it's not exactly the clearest picture in the world.
2. Mr. Dashner will get into trouble if I do.
3. I don't even know how to get a picture on my phone to my computer.
And I can't tell you anything about the first three chapters, except that they are awesome and I am totally pumped for The Death Cure.

The next segment was the main address with Steve Keele. He's an artist that does a lot of fantasy/sci-fi work.

I only got to stay a half hour for the panel of "What Is an Agent, and What Can They Do for You?" with James Dashner, Lesli Muir Lytle, and Tyler Whitesides before I had to go to class.
I wish I could have stayed longer, because it was really helpful in advice about agents. Mr. Dashner shared his experience with an agent that was not the best for him, and how the agent he has now is great for him. Also, it was noted that no agent is perfect, but there are a lot of good ones out there. They also expressed how helpful it was that an agent help edit. Also, it turns out some writers think they don't need an agent, which is very, very wrong.

At this point I had to go to my British Literature class and discuss Thomas Carlyle, and afterwards I hurried back to LTUE. I went into the Storyboard panel at first, which then I realized that they were discussing animation which I have no pressing need to know about, so I switched and went into "The Problems of Sequels" with Larry Correia, Bree Despain, Anna del C Dye, Jessica Day George, and Mette Ivie Harrison.
They hit some key problems authors have with sequels, including backstory of the first book, what to do with a character arc that has already been "completed", and writing a book for the series, not the book itself. They suggested to weave the backstory like you do in the first book of what happened before then. And they also talked about how you shouldn't return a character to the way s/he was at the beginning of the first book--give them new challenges. And, of course, first time authors should write a stand-alone that could become a sequel.

Next came "Plotstorming from Character" with Paul Genesse.
This one talked about how important it is to develop characters with depth and interest, someone the reader can care about. After all, it's characters that really make us want to read on. I know I've read some really interesting plots, but the dull or frustrating characters made me dislike the book. Yet amazing characters I care about have spiced up the plot of an otherwise dull story. My favorite advice: strong characters make choices, so have characters make choices and not just be blown around.

When 4:00 came rolling along, I went to "Rewriting to Greatness: Five Editing Techniques to Help Improve Your Stories" with David Farland.
Basically: Edit a lot. Look at big stuff, little stuff. Don't over-edit, that just kills the story. But objectively look at what works and what doesn't for the story. Flesh out characters more, shorten unneeded descriptions, all of that stuff.

The next panel I attended was "What You Can and Can't Do in a YA Novel" with Mette Ivie Harrison, Elana Johnson, Bree Despain, Robison Wells, and J. Scott Savage.
First, about this, I must say: Get your mind out of it.

Except for one question at the end, no one talked about sex in YA. Instead, they talked about how YA was different from adult books, and in more than just cleanliness and the age of the protagonist (although that is certainly part of it). YA has a tendancy for there to be hope at the end. I mean, really, can you think of a YA book that didn't end with some glimmer of hope or happiness? I haven't read many adult books (I drawing a blank on even one except for classics) but right now they tend to be a lot bleaker.

At 6:00 I attended the panel of "How to Get and Develop Killer Story Ideas" with John Brown and Larry Correia.
They talked about listening to your "zing" sensor, that feeling of what type of situation could make an interesting story. They talked about throwing out ideas for character, plot, setting, and problem. They even encouraged throwing out generic answers and then using them to find a twist to make it original. Then we spent time brainstorming about Wyoming, ghosts, and lost Japanese tourists.

By 7:00, I'm pretty tired and pretty hungry. But, I stuck through for one more hour because the next presentation talked about this:
"Lessons on Story from The Hunger Games" with John Brown.
The only thing that could make me fangirl more would be if they had "Lessons on Character from Peeta Mellark" with Suzanne Collins.
I think an important point Mr. Brown made was that every story has been done already. I've known Hunger Games getting crap about being "done before" but I agree with Mr. Brown. The Hunger Games is different, and it is awesome.
He also talked about how to capture a reader, there needs to be this equation: Likeability+Problem=Rooting. He also compared Katniss and Rue. We feel sympathy for both, but in the end root for Katniss because she's active and clearly has a good chance at surviving. He talked about dilemma, to not cut your story to proportions but do what is right for it, and to present turns.
The only thing that ruined it was that in one of the pictures on the slideshow, Peeta was being represented by Alex Pettyfer, when obviously this guy is Peeta:

Hmmm. Hunter Parrish.

Great day, tiring day (although maybe that accounts from my lack of sleep this week...)
Anyway, more tomorrow!

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