October 8th, 2008


Conflux, and stuff

 So you know, the stuff. I'm a bit discombobulated at the moment, needing to hunker down big time to write, and being distracted by various things -- one of which arrived today. Russell T Davies' book about writing Doctor Who. Aaarrgghhhh! I want to read it! I want to read it NOW!!!!!!

Anyway ...

I must get my act together. Much to do, not enough time for doing. Send me productive thoughts, people ...

And in the meantime, I shall natter about Conflux. I had such a wonderful time. Met with lovely people, some great conversations, some writing, some panels. I travelled there and back with my solid gold Voyager editor Stephanie, and her husband Jim, who I hadn't met. What great value he is! We talked spec fic books and tv and film the whole time, and it was great. He now has a viewing list as long as my arm ... *g*

Friday was the workshop, on creating dynamic characters. I love talking about this kind of stuff, so I had fun -- mostly -- but truth be told, I was a little taken aback by the lack of in depth character knowledge of the participants. See, for me, if you want to write stories you should love stories, and if you love stories then you should love characters,  and you should have a mile-long list of characters you've met and loved and get all excited about. But ... not so much. However, be that as it may, we got down to the nitty-gritty of working out how to create a character, and what information a writer needs to know, and how that information about the characters can inform and develop plot. Single most useful insight, I think, was this one:

What is the source of your character's pain?

Once you know that, you're well on your way to making them compelling and truly human. Because we all have pain, secret or otherwise, and it's our pain that spurs us to do or not do things in our lives. And therein lies the seeds of great story.

The bad thing about the workshop was the fact that on the drive down from Sydney we stopped for a break in Goulbourn and I had a vanilla thickshake. Now I don't know if the milk was off, or if my system has been without milk in it for so long that it had a nervous breakdown, but partway through the workshop I started having ... let's just call them internal ructions. *g* So I had to keep running for the bathroom praying I wasn't going to throw up everywhere, or worse. The participants were great, and took my many abrupt departures well and truly in their stride. And you know? It never hurts to be afflicted with serious gut pain and the almost overwhelming urge to throw up because if you don't know how that feels, how can you write about it with any kind of authenticity? Still. It made things interesting for a while.

Friday night I had dinner with two wonderful people, Ron Serdiuk of Brisbane's Pulp Fiction bookshop and Angela Slatter -- one of Australia's up and coming writers. Fab time, much hilarity and thoughtful conversation. Good company. Man, why do so many of the cool people not live in Sydney????

Saturday was writing and panels and chatting with various bods, and Saturday night was dinner with Stephanie and many other folk from Voyager and fellow writers. Again, so much wonderful conversation and hilarity. Sunday was more panels, including a super one with Tor editor Liz Gorinsky and my editor Stephanie and Zoe, children's publisher for Random House, and Russell Blackford and Keith Stevenson on the relationship between editors and writers. Magic group of people to share a table with.  Although maybe that was Monday. Things are very blurred ... And I had a sit down coffee with one of the finest writers Australia has ever produced, Kim Westwood, whom I met at Clarion. She's a gem, is Kim. Her work is challenging to read, but provides such visceral pleasure in its execution. Sunday also saw the very silly what to look for in an evil overlord panel, out of which came the stunning realisation that there is no opposite term for 'wenching'. I mean, boys get to go wenching. What do girls get to do? Trudi Canavan suggested wrenching, but I wasn't going to touch that one. *g*

It was lovely to catch up with GOH Cat Sparks, who participated in a terrific panel about making the jump from short fiction to long fiction. Also Deb Biancotti, yet another superlative writer who will be a household name once she makes the break into longer format, I'm sure. And  Margo  Lanagan, an absolute superstar. Her first novel is out now, Tender Morsels, and while I haven't read all of it, what I have read is delicious. Also, thanks to the wonderful Fiona McLennan, I got to hang with the aforementioned Zoe from Random House, and with Sarah, who's also involved in the children's publishing part of the company, and they were magnificent value. Got a titch of time with Jason Nahrung, another writer knocking on the door to greater things, and a lovely chap. It was delightful watching Bill Congreve with his 5 month old son. It's so lovely to see that our culture has evolved to the point where a man can parent affectionately and enthusiastically in public. Josh is very lucky to have such a great dad. It was lovely to have a little bit of time with that powerhouse Jack Dann. He's so supportive of Australian spec fic, it's delightful. I had a blast chatting with Tim and Natalie from Voyager -- and wanted more time with them, too.

But there's never enough time to see everyone at a con. They need to go for a whole week, to catch up with everyone cool that's there. I should've written more than I did, but twice this year I've had to work at a con and this time I really wanted to see some people. Hence the need to really buckle down now!

So congrats to the folks who put together this year's Conflux, Karen Herkes and Nicole Murphy in particular. It's hard work, and often thankless, but we'd be the poorer without them. I'm sorry to be missing next year's, but I have a date with Jude Law in London's  West End.

Right now, things are slowly gearing up for the Natcon in Adelaide, to be held over the Queen's Birthday long weekend. Please, if you can, support the convention. You'll have a great time, and it's so good for Australian spec fic scene. You can go here for the website, which is still gearing up for business -- but at least it's a start!

In closing, I'm going to make a random observation about something which I want to blog more about, in due course, and that's the new season of Supernatural. Okay. Castiel??? Holy hand grenades! That guy has brought something extraordinary to the mix. The entire story had shifted into a new and wonderful dynamic with this development. And it's really making me think about story and character impact as a result. But in the meantime ... just wow. I am forever amazed and mystified by actor/character chemistry on screen. I don't know what it is, I don't know what makes it, but when it works it's electric. Such is the case between Misha Collins and Jensen Ackles. Pure gold.

And on that note, I shall now fling myself into my own story chemistry. Wish me luck!