Over the past few days we’ve been bring you Nadine Little‘s experiences of this year’s Edge Lit-6 Conversation. You can read Part 1 here and you can read Part 2 here. In the final part includes her report of a Samantha Shannon Q&A and two other workshops.
Edge Lit-6 Convention Part 3
Unfortunately, I had to miss a workshop on writing short stories as it clashed with the author Q&A of Samantha Shannon, author of The Bone Season. But it was worth it. She was funny and engaging, talking about her seven-book series and how she’s trying to write each book as a different genre, using the same characters and story arc. I particularly enjoyed her mini-rant about the obsession with strong female protagonists and how they’re given masculine characteristics but people are quick to dismiss other kinds of strength in more feminine characters. Her session ended with some questions from the audience. And I asked her one. No, in fact, two. That’s right—I asked questions out loud in front of everyone (like ten people). Was very proud of myself. Can’t quite remember what my questions were but I’m sure they were witty and intelligent.
I rounded off the day with two more workshops and a panel. The first, characterisation, considered how to create convincing characters through physical features (age, gender, speech), identity (name, nationality, occupation, status), mannerisms/quirks (extrovert/introvert, nervous twitch, limp) and motivations (family, work, money). Characterisation should be inserted by showing (‘John wedged himself into the seat’ not ‘John is fat’) and sprinkled throughout the story, not all in one info dump. Only the relevant 10% should be mentioned in the book to convey the essence of the character, with the rest under the surface but motivating how the character reacts etc. This is known as the ‘Iceberg Approach’. Finally, a well-chosen name can define a character (think of James Bond and Scarlett O’Hara). Short, sharp names generally work for protagonists whereas longer, fussy names are better for supporting characters i.e. Douglas Adams with Arthur Dent (main) and Zaphod Beeblebrox (secondary) in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
My last workshop was on writing horror and ghosts. Most of the time was taken up by considering the opening paragraph of Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House and trying to emulate the sense of unease she produces with our own opening lines. Here is my attempt:
The trees dripped leaves of crimson when I knew my husband was no longer my husband.
The panel I attended to close off the event considered whether a world without genre could ever exist. The general consensus appeared to be it would be great not to have genre constraints but it could result in confused people stumbling around bookshops trying to find something to read, unless they know the name of the author they like.
The panel was the end of the day for me due to train times but the event itself continued in my absence with a raffle (mostly of books) and the Gemmell Awards prize-giving ceremony for fantasy fiction, which also included an auction where various items could be bid on, such as books, editorial services and the chance to feature as a character in a Jay Kristoff novel (my personal favourite). The winner of this could expect to be killed off horribly.
What I learnt most from this event was that mingling with other writers at a fully-packed and informative event like Edge-Lit is well worth it for the inspiration, new ideas and general friendliness of the organisers and everyone you meet. A similar event, Sledge-Lit, is scheduled for Saturday 25th November 2017 if my ramblings have enthused you to check it out.