Clarion 2 1/2 years on, Lee Battersby’s week of infamy

  Week 2 was Lee Battersby’s week.  I’d gotten to know Lyn by then (talking Spec Fic 24×7 gets everybody pretty cozy pretty quickly), so I knew that Lee was her husband.  I’d read his short story collection Through Soft Air and been impressed at the skill and variety of the stories, so I was looking forward to it.

Lee turned out to be like the Uncle in a movie scripted by Judd Apatow(in a good way).  He’d give you a cool anecdote, tear down your story a bit, build it back up shinier, give you a wink, and rub his hands together in anticipation of the next one.  He was encouraging, happily rough-edged, all about fighter-pilots vs. the evil bus drivers, and he gave us a whole lot of inspirational pictures, stories, and teabags (okay, that sounds very wrong…)

Lee had tons to teach me.  Such as:

The rule of three : things seem to work better when they are referenced three times, as four is too many and two seems random, as if it’s missing something.  Subvert it, but be aware of it…

Get a blog and find other professional writers.  Follow their blogs.  Add them to your friend’s list.  Don’t be a stalker.

Buy stamps online for the country you are sending your manuscript to (I’m still too dumb to have done this, but I cheat.  I have parents in the states…)

Ask yourself what is at stake.  Why should it matter?  Is it REALLY at stake?  Are the characters making decisions that matter?  Have a conversation with yourself about these choices!

A good protagonist will go in a direction that will solve their problems.  It may not work, but that’s the direction they’ll be pulled toward

But the biggest thing he taught me is something I wrote in my moleskin notebook in big fucking letters.  (And those things aren’t cheap, so that should show you how important it was to take up so much space with it….)  TAKE RISKS.  He taught me to find them, and take them.  If you aren’t being dangerous, if you aren’t making hard choices, then your protags aren’t either, and if that’s the deal, hell, I’ve got a lot of DVDs I’d rather watch then read your boring story…

An exotic story, be it in setting or idea, needs details for the reader to cling to

Involve the senses in every scene.  Not all of them, but more than one.  And more than two.  And not always sight and sound!

Bus drivers will write predictable, saleable, safe stories.  That’s the money route.  (I doubt real bus drivers know that, but hey, there you go…)  Fighter pilots will take risks, they’ll occasionally crash and burn, but they’re the people others will point at and say “Holy crap, did you see that?”  Fly a jet if you want to be talked about…

That’s all for now.  I’m off to go and sit in the cockpit and make flying noises to myself…

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5 responses to “Clarion 2 1/2 years on, Lee Battersby’s week of infamy

  • Cass

    I’m here via the lovely Laura G, and I have to say – I am really enjoying everything that you have to share. Thank you for passing it on, and for being yet another reminder that it really is okay to TAKE RISKS!

  • christophergreen

    Glad you found some joy here, Cass. Nice to meet you!

  • Melinda

    Lot’s of good stuff here. I can’t ever go to the Clarion Workshop even if I were to be accepted, so it is great to glean the wisdom from it through former attendants like you and Peter 🙂

  • christophergreen

    Hey Melinda. I have a feeling the “rules” will become more and more about me shaping a world where I never have to read another lame plot or see anyone describe themselves by looking a mirror or tell me they’re dead and then flashback as to why, and expect me to care. 🙂 Thanks for reading along!

  • Slimejam • Christopher Green’s recollections of Clarion South

    […] Australian speculative fiction writer Christopher Green looks back on some notes taken during the 2007 Clarion South workshop. […]

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