Saturday, April 5, 2014

Eric Witchey and the irreconcilable self

Image from Eric Witchey

Linguist and author Eric Witchey proved a great discovery at the recent flagship conference put on by Wordcrafters in Eugene.

"Character," he tells fellow authors, "is conflict." Once you figure out what drives a character psychologically, it becomes clear exactly how that person would handle a given conflict, and that knowledge helps generate plot.

Putting on his linguistics hat, he also offers a seminar and booklet on "How the Reader Breaks Your Writing." This is a list of common mistakes of sentence, word, mechanics and technique that can take the reader out of the fictional dream the writer is trying to create. Alert writers know this. That's why before submitting a story, a serious writer will edit, edit, and edit, then have someone else edit again.

In "Emotion-Driven Fiction," Witchey explains how the reader is held in a story by the logic of emotion: an emotion leads to a decision, which leads to an action. That in turn causes something else to happen, which causes a new emotion, allowing the cycle of what this writer calls the "emotional logic" to carry on.

He also details the need for characters and their creators to become aware of the "irreconcilable self," which, once brought to consciousness and faced, creates the deepest level of change in a protagonist. Fictionally speaking, he explains, characters who cannot complete this task successfully must die.

His Eugene workshops were fun, informative, and often hilarious. An added bonus was that they came with practical tools in the form of booklets on how to work various aspects of the craft of writing. Here Witchey gives a short talk on how to work at the craft of fiction.

He once demonstrated his craft by writing  "Batbaby and Bigfoot versus the Bloodsucking Vampires," in fifteen minutes, as an exercise. This story appears on his Fantasy list of publications.

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