Archive for the 'Writing Fiction' Category

Workshop on November 21: Short Story Writing

I will be teaching a writing workshop on short stories along with the amazing Lydia Peever at the November 21st meeting of the Ottawa Independent Writers.

The details:

WHEN: Tuesday, November 21, 2017 @ 7PM (doors at 6:30)
WHERE: Hintonburg Community Centre, 1064 Wellington Street, Ottawa
HOW LONG: 2 hours
COST: $10 payable at the event (free to members of the Ottawa Independent Writers)

Why take this workshop?

Have you always wanted to write a short story? Or are you looking to improve your skills? You’re not alone.

Short stories can be deceptively complicated little beasts. I’ve known a number of novelists say they’re harder than novels. This workshop will break down how short stories work, where to find inspiration, techniques to turn that inspiration into the story you want to tell, and how to get them published.

Meet and greet begins at 6:30, workshop at 7 p.m. Coffee, tea and snacks are included. If you’re not a member of the Ottawa Independent Writers, the $10 fee can go toward your OIW membership if they wish to join.

There is plenty of parking at the rear of the Community Centre.

 

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Writing workshop: “Keep Readers on the Edge of Their Seats” at CAN-CON on Oct 13 in Ottawa, ON

I will be teaching a writing workshop on how to create and maintain tension in your story at CAN-CON in Ottawa, Ontario.

WHEN: Friday, October 13, 2017 @ noon
HOW LONG: 2 hours
FORMAT: Lecture with group exercises and hand-outs
COST: $20
REGISTER HERE

Why take this workshop?

Regardless of what you write, you need to hook the reader and keep them reading. “I couldn’t put it down,” is something we all want to hear. This can be through characters we care about, end-of-the-world stakes, will-they/won’t-they romance, or a plot that keeps unfolding new twists.

But have you been getting rejections like “Just didn’t grab me” or feedback saying it “Started too slow”? Do you have trouble figuring out what your main character should do next? Does your story start great and ends with a bang, but gets bogged down in the middle?

This workshop will help.

How will it help?

Tension is more than short, clipped sentences, the “ticking clock” or cutting between scenes. It’s making readers want need dying to know what happens next. This all comes from how you reveal and conceal information, and increase the stakes for your character. It’s not gimmicks, tricks or “on page 14, reveal the conflict” formulas. It’s solid writing techniques that can be used in any genre and any length of story.

What will you get out of it?

We’ll discuss:

  • How to structure scenes and the overall story so readers will keep turning pages
  • Techniques to make sure there’s always several things threatening your main character, driving them through the story
  • The various kinds of antagonists working against your main character, and why they are such a threat
  • How to keep upping the stakes if your character fails
  • How to stop using clichés, tricks and gimmicks that actually remove tension from your story

 

Writing workshop: “Keep Readers on the Edge of Their Seats” at Limestone Genre Expo on June 3 in Kingston, ON

I will be teaching a 2-hour writing workshop on how to keep readers on the edges of their seats at the Limestone Genre Expo in Kingston, Ontario on Saturday, June 3, 2017. It will start at 3PM.

Why should I take this workshop?

This workshop is for writers of all genres who want their stories to be page-turners that readers can’t put down. If you have been getting rejections or feedback like “Started too slow” or “Just didn’t grab me”, this workshop is for you.

There’s more to maintaining tension than just writing short, clipped sentences, the “ticking clock” or cutting between scenes. Stories, and the scenes within them, have a structure. (And do not confuse structure, which is descriptive, with formula, which is prescriptive.) That is, we are introduced to a scene, something changes for our characters, and they move on to the next scene. This can involve saving the universe or looking for their car keys. To create tension, you need to understand how the pieces of this structure work—plot, pacing, characters, conflict, etc.

We’ll look at things like:

  • How to end a scene in a way that makes the reader want to keep reading, but by giving a pay-off and not “cheating”?
  • What kind of threats and challenges can you throw at the main character that aren’t tired, clichéd or too easy?
  • Who or what is working against your main character?
  • What is on the line if your main character fails?

I hope to see you there!

Schedule for Limestone Genre Expo 2017

Here’s my schedule for the Limestone Genre Expo, a multi-genre convention taking place June 3 – 4 in Kingston, Ontario. This is a new and growing convention that I hope you’ll check out if you’re in Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto or upstate New York.

One highlight is a workshop on Saturday about how to build tension in your stories. I’ll also be doing a reading from The Sum Of Us: Tales of the Bonded and Bound, a great new anthology about the burdens caregivers must bear. My story, “Good-by Is That Time Between Now and Forever”, is about how do we care for the elderly and terminally ill in a world where the dead never stay dead.

Saturday

  • 10:00 – 11:00: A Bleak Future: Post-Apocalyptic And Dystopian Fiction (Room 1020)
  • 1:00 – 2:00: True Crime Leads to Crime Fiction (Room 1020)
  • 2:00 – 3:00: Why We Need Tales of Vampires, Werewolves and Ghosts (Room 1020)
  • 3:00 – 5:00: Workshop – Keeping Readers on the Edge of Their Seats (Room 1040)

Sunday

  • 11:00 –12:00: Oh the Horror! (Room 1010)
  • 3:00 – 4:00: Reading – “Good-by Is That Time Between Now and Forever” from The Sum Of Us: Tales of the Bonded and Bound (Room 1030)
  • 4:00 – 5:00: Historical Fantasy: Facts vs Imagination (Room 1010)

Schedule for Ad Astra 2017

Here’s my schedule for Ad Astra 2017, a sci-fi/horror/fantasy convention happening this weekend in Richmond Hill, Ontario (just outside Toronto). Some good horror programming on here!

I will also be doing a reading, but the timing for that is TBD.

Friday

7:00 – 7:30: READING
Markham B
I’ll be reading my historical science fiction story “A Shame That Binds Our Hearts, Binds Our Fate,” which appeared in On Spec, Issue #102 and placed 2nd in the Friends of the Merril short story contest. Stick around for Matthew Bin at 7:30. His novel Brendan’s Way (Bundoran Press) is launching Saturday at 9:00).

9:00 – 10:00: REVISITING JOHN CARPENTER
Richmond B
John Carpenter’s films have always had an audience in fandom, but recent years have seen a critical reappraisal of his work. In the words of Guillermo del Toro: “Carpenter creates masterpiece after masterpiece and they are often ignored.” Films like Halloween and The Thing are definitive horror films, but are they more relevant to cinema as a whole than previously thought? What other works of Carpenter deserve a closer viewing? (with James Bambury, Beverly Bambury, David Clink, Adam Shaftoe-Durrant)

Saturday

11:00 – 12:00: UNSETTLING THE READER AND CREATING FEAR IN HORROR
Richmond A
Works of horror necessarily disturb their readers with feelings of unease, revulsion, and fear. Easy to say, hard to do. What do horror authors do to create the negative emotions their readers are seeking? (with Derek Künsken, Jon Oliver, Alexandra Renwick)

6:00 – 7:00: UNSETTLING THE READER AND CREATING FEAR IN HORROR
Aurora

Publishers describe novels as a “supernatural thriller” or “novel of terror”, but is no one saying “horror” anymore?  Did the 80s heyday, and eventual burn-out, of horror novels ruin the term? Or maybe the onslaught of remakes of 80s horror film? Why aren’t we saying “horror” anymore? (with Anne Bishop, Beverly Bambury, Dean Italiano, Jen Frankel)

Sunday

2:00 – 3:00: FANTASY FROM TRILOGIES TO TELEVISION SERIES
Oakridges

Fantasy in the 1970’s and earlier was usually a stand alone book or a trilogy at the most.  Now it’s a megaseries of books often with a movie or television tie-in.  Once the little sibling of science fiction fantasy now dwarfs its sibling.  How did this happen? (with Jeff Beeler, Brandon Draga, Nicholas Eames, A.A. Jankiewicz)

Why you should dontate to 49th Parallels from Bundoran Press

Below, I’m going to encourage you to support Bundoran Press’ Indigogo campaign for 49th Parallels—their latest anthology of science fiction.

But I’ll start by saying: I don’t think crowdfunding is a stable or reliable business model for publishers. There comes a point where readers say: “Why do I need to pay for something that you, as a business, should have the money to produce?”

I’ll also say that I have supported and appeared in anthologies that have benefited from crowdfunding.

And here’s why.

First, the publishing business is becoming more and more challenging. Sometimes there needs to be a show of support from fans before publishers will take a leap of faith and publish. Also, short story collections and anthologies do not sell as well as novels.

And yet, it’s short story collections that provide readers a better option. Novels and collections by a single author are all or nothing. An anthology, especially a themed anthology, offers you many voices—a few of them are bound to resonate with you and make you believe your money was well spent.

This is where the Indiegogo campaign for 49th Parallels comes in. Bundoran has produced award-winning anthologies around thought-provoking ideas like life extension through technology, life on Earth 50 years after contact with aliens, and the effects of resource scarcity. 49th Parallels will examine how the world would be changed if Canada had been different sometime in the past. Think about it: Often, alternate timeline fiction has revolved around major powers. But Canada, a soft power, has influenced the world on many levels, but levels that don’t often make it into mainstream history.

49th Parallels will happen with or without the Indiegogo campaign’s success. What the campaign does is increase the rates Bundoran will pay for stories. Higher rates will attract the interest of leading science fiction authors who their livings from their writing. Do you want to see these leading voices sharing their visions of a future where Canada’s role in world events had a major impact? That is what donations will lead to: sharp minds, big ideas and amazing stories.

This campaign is not asking you to take a financial risk that business will not, but to attract the amazing stories we all hope to find in science fiction. I hope you will consider supporting it.

Conventions as “safe spaces” for the shy and introverted

can-con

Can-Con 2016, Ottawa speculative fiction convention, is coming up in a few weeks. It’s taking place September 9 – 11, 2016 at the Novotel in downtown Ottawa.

If you are a fan of sci-fi, fantasy, horror or anything like that, but have never been to (or considered attending) a convention, please give this a try. A bit of my history: When I began writing seriously, I was encouraged to attend Ad Astra in Toronto. I was very hesitant. I am a shy person, very introverted, and a weekend surrounded by strangers seemed overwhelming to me. Like, panic-attack overwhelming.

But I went and was transformed. Here were people like me: shy and thoughtful, but away from the loud-and-boisterous braggarts who dominate just about every public space, we could be ourselves. Was Robotech as good as we remembered, is Star more SF or more fantasy, when does horror go too far? I could talk to people if I wanted to, or be off by myself and no one bothered me. And not just did no one bother me, no one made me think that being on my own was somehow wrong.

A speculative fiction conference is a safe space in a lot of ways. We actively fight sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and racism. But you are also safe to be in your own shell. We’ve all had experiences where sitting and reading our book is viewed as pitiable or even a justification to “save” us from being alone. This does not happen at a speculative fiction conference. And something like Comiccon, even with all its geeky goodness, can be overwhelming with so many people.

SF conventions, like Can-Con, are places to observe and think. It is as contemplative as it is social. You can go to the room parties, read in the bar, or chill out in your room—it’s all OK. If you don’t say one word to anyone else, no one will judge you or think it’s wrong or you’re being a jerk.

If you’re a fan of SF/F/H and feel like no one at work or in your family really gets you, and you have to pretend to be someone else to get by every day, please come. Experience what I did. Make strong friendships even after a life-time of finding it hard to make new friends. We might not all love the same things, or see eye-to-eye on The Force Awakens, but we will respect who you are and what you believe, and welcome you into our community even after so many others have excluded you.

Please come: http://can-con.org/cc/registration/

2016 Limestone Genro Expo schedule

I’ll be attending the Limestone Genre Expo next weekend and my full schedule is below. When I’m not on panel, you’ll probably find me behind the ChiZine Publications‘ dealers table. CZP is the publisher guests of honour this year and it’s my privilege to represent them.

This is Limestone’s second year and it shows no signs of stopping! It’s a great and growing convention in Kingston, Ontario so I hope you can make it out.

The two-day schedule is on their website and online registration is available until July 21, so go sign-up!

Saturday

10:00 – 11:00: Where is Fantasy taking the modern reader?
I’ll be moderating a panel with Tanya Huff, Violette Malan, Sean Moreland, Kit Daven, Nancy Baker and Marie Bilodeau

Sunday

11:00 – 12:00: Far Out: What’s happening in Science Fiction?
I’ll be moderating this panel with Nina Munteanu, Kate Heartfield, Charlotte Ashley, Ira Nayman, Andrew Barton and Derek Kunsken

2:00 – 3:00: What Horror trends are scaring you these days?
I’ll be on this panel with David Nickle, Karen Dales, Alyssa Cooper, James Moran and Sean Moreland with moderator Evan May

The Five Stages of Luke Skywalker’s Hero’s Journey

Star_Wars_Logo

The first of the Star Wars films, Episode IV presents storytellers with a lot of structures and models worth noting.

Star Wars, Episode IV: A New Hope may be one of the most perfect examples of the hero’s journey and three act structure. No doubt, Lucas outlined the heck out of the script to ensure it hit every beat, twist and milestone that screenwriting manuals insisted a story should have.

But something I never considered, and think might be an interesting model to follow, is the five distinct phases in Luke’s development. I will call these phases:

  • The Child
  • The Adolescent
  • The Man
  • The Warrior
  • The Hero

In each phase, Luke become more pro-active and gains more power over his fate. What’s more, in every phase there is another male character influencing Luke’s decisions. And the male character from the next phase will be introduced and clash with that phase’s influencing character. This clash forces Luke to broaden his outlook and grow as a character.

What is this important? It provides a model one can use to develop and grow a hero (of either gender) through not just one, but several contrasting mentors.

Luke the Child

Luke begins as a child. He is naïve about the world, plays with toys, whines when he doesn’t get his way, and lies to his Uncle about where he is going. At this phase, Luke’s seeking adventure is contrasted against his Uncle Owen’s pragmatism. Luke being beaten unconscious by Tusken Raiders shows that Luke is unprepared for a larger world of adventure.

Then Luke meets Obi-Wan. Obi-Wan is the gateway to his next level of development. Clearly, Obi-Wan and Owen do not see eye-to-eye, which puts Luke into conflict. While Obi-Wan’s offer to teach Luke the Force is appealing, Luke’s fear of his uncle causes Luke to decline Obi-Wan’s invitation to adventure. It is only through Owen’s death that Luke the Child is free to grow into Luke the Adolescent and follow Obi-Wan. (Had Luke arrived home and found his aunt and uncle safe, it’s likely he would safe said “So long” to Obi-Wan and never left the Jundland Wastes.)

Luke the Adolescent

Free of his Uncle, Luke seeks adventure with Obi-Wan, who assumes the role of Luke’s influencing character. Stating he’s “Ready for anything” in Mos Eisley, Luke is (again) not up for the challenge and must be saved (again) by Obi-Wan.

While Obi-Wan represents an idealistic vision of a future life, the introduction of Han presents Luke with a realistic, utilitarian and selfish existence.

However, rather than being meek, as Luke had been with his uncle, Luke meets Han’s “But who’s gonna fly it, Kid? You?” quip with anger, not deference. Luke is growing.

And, just as Obi-Wan and Owen were at odds, Han and Obi-Wan argue over the best course of action and make all the decisions at this stage of the story. This leaves Luke as a follower and unable to be pro-active until Obi-Wan goes off to shutdown the tractor beam’s power generator. Before Obi-Wan leaves, he rejects Luke’s offer to go with him and instead instructs him to watch over the droids. In a subtle way, Obi-Wan is telling Luke it is time to stop being a follower.

Seconds after Obi-Wan leaves, Han and Luke get into an argument, showing that Luke the Child, who would have backed down, is no more. Seconds after that, R2-D2 locates Princess Leia and Luke becomes pro-active. Understanding from Obi-Wan that Han is motivated by money, Luke appeals to Han’s greed to go rescue the Princess. Once again, Luke is growing.

He proves himself in getting into the detention level and freeing Princess Leia. Still, Han is the more pro-active of the characters in these scenes.

Luke the Man

While it’s a moment played for laughs, this look unscores that Han has come to respect Luke as an equal.

While Han has been the dominant character with Obi-Wan’s exit, it is Luke who finds a way out of the trash compactor. Once freed, Han treats Luke like a comrade and equal with the line: “If we can just avoid any more female advice, we ought to be able to get out of here.” When Leia lectures him, Han looks to Luke for support—acknowledging him as an equal—and Luke responds with one of the greatest eye rolls in cinematic history.

Luke’s actions have won Han’s approval, validating he is now a man. Han is now the character against which Luke is compared.

Luke continues to grow through getting the princess to the Millennium Falcon and fending off the TIE fighter attack, but in the process witnesses the death of Obi-Wan. As with Owen, the man who held Luke’s future is now gone.

Once free of the Death Star, Han continues to treat Luke like an equal, first through teasing him about Leia and then offering that he should go with Chewbecca and himself: “Why don’t you come with us? You’re pretty good in a fight. I could use you.” This is high praise from Han Solo.

A seemingly simple shot, this shows that Luke and Han are no longer seeing things the same way. Luke is eager to join the idealistic cause to attack the Death Star while Han is dismissive. Luke has grown past Han, so these two men must part ways.

But Luke is on the cusp of becoming a warrior. It is the other rebel pilots, Red Leader especially, against whom Luke is comparing himself. In the pilot briefing, the conflict between Han and the rebellion is seen in a short shot of Han waving dismissively at the plan to attack the Death Star. For Han, it’s suicide; for the rebellion, it is what they must do.

With words of validation from Biggs and Red Leader (in the extended editions), Luke has outgrown the practical and selfish Han Solo to the point where, in their words of parting, Luke is in the more powerful position. Now it is Luke forcing Han to explain himself.

We have come 180 from the first confrontation in Mos Eisley.

Luke the Warrior

With Han gone, Luke finds himself among a group of warriors, accepted as an equal. He survives wave after wave of assault. Finally, with most of Gold and Red squadrons destroyed, Red Leader picks Luke to lead the second attack run. Luke has proven himself a warrior.

The male character against which Luke will be compared in the next phase is Darth Vader, who destroys most of the remaining rebel fighters. Finally, it is not an ally but the antagonist against whom the hero must tangle.

Luke the Hero

In the trench run, Luke is alone. Most of Red Squadron is gone, Obi-Wan is dead, Han has left and even R2-D2 is disabled. The villain, Darth Vader, has isolated Luke and has the boy in his sights. So what happens?

Luke rises to become a hero in two ways.

The first is the return of Han Solo. While we credit Han for saving Luke, Han would never have returned without Luke’s admonishment. Luke could have just let Han go, but Luke’s appeal to something beyond simple greed is what forces Han to return. In this way, Luke has saved himself.

Freed of pursuers, Luke becomes a hero in a second way. He believes in the Force, opening himself up to the “larger world” Obi-Wan spoke of, and makes the shot that none of the other, more experienced pilots could make.

Luke returns to Yavin IV to find a hero’s welcome.

So what does this mean?

A hero’s journey is a very common but also very tricky story arc to get right. In Episode IV, Lucas used a series of mature, established characters to act as signposts for his hero. Except for Han’s change of heart at the end, none of these mentor characters needed to change, allowing the story to revolve on the character development of only the hero. And since they all played different roles—parent, wizard, hired man, general—their role as mentors did not feel repeated or trite as Luke encountered each one.

If you are telling a hero’s journey, it’s a powerful and useful model to follow.

My CAN-CON 2015 Schedule

CAN-CON 2015—Ottawa’s original conference on SF/F/H—is coming up in Ottawa from October 30 to November 1. There will be readings, panel discussions and presentations, plus book launches and room parties. Registration is open and it’s $60 for the whole weekend with discounts for students.

A description of all the panels is up on their website. And you can download a PDF of the daily schedule. My schedule is below.

Something that is not listed are my Blue Pencil Cafés, which you have to sign up in advance for, but they are free for attendees. I hope you’ll sign up!

Friday

2:30PM: Workshop – Keep Readers on the Edge of Their Seats
I wrote a blog post with some more information on this workshop. Short version: creating tension means knowing how to structure a story and create threats to your hero. If you’re interested, you can register on the CAN-CON site. It’s $10 with a $1.25 service fee.

7:00PM: Live critic panel
Matt Moore, Kris Ramsey, James Bambury, Kevin Quirt, Agnes Cadieux
Come hear us crack wise about whatever the audiences says they love.

9:00PM: Bundoran Press/SFCanada Party
I’ll be attending. We’ll have to see how the evening goes, but I might be reading a snippet from “As Below, So Above” from Bundoran’s Second Contacts anthology.

Saturday

10:00AM: Our Monsters are our Children
Matt Moore (m), Sean Moreland
Why do we love monsters, and what does that say about us?

3:00PM: Horror Reading: What is scaring the $#@% out of you?
Matt Moore (m), Peter Halasz
Looking for some good horror novels to read? Come check this out.

6:00PM: Extreme Weather Slapdown CANCELLED
Marie Bilodeau (m), Matt Moore, Eric Choi, Leah Petersen, Mark Robinson
Famed stormchaser Mark Robinson poses a severe weather event, and we authors have to create a story around it.

7:00PM: Scifi Cult movies (Buckaroo Banzai, Mystery Men, Repo Man, etc)
Ira Nayman (m), Timothy Carter, Matt Moore, Eric Choi
Why do we love them?

9:00PM: The ChiZine Publications’ Party
I will be there.

Sunday

11:30AM: Reading
I’ll be reading “The Weak Son” from Tesseracts Thirteen. It’s an older piece, but one of my favourites to read aloud.

12:00PM: Contract, Contracts, Contracts – What’s a Good One?
Matt Moore (m), Matthew Johnson, Eve Langlais, David Hartwell, Caroline Frechette
Are you an author wondering what makes a good contract? Publishers and experienced authors will let you know what to expect, what to fight for, and what’s just crazy to ask for.


Upcoming Appearances

ChiSeries Ottawa: Charles de Lint, Paul Glennon and Liz Westbrook-Trenholm – Host
Nov. 7, 2017
Clocktower Brew (Basement)
575 Bank Street
Ottawa, ON
Nov 21st OIW: Short Story Writing with Matt Moore, Lydia Peever – Instructor
Nov. 21, 2017
Hintonburg Community Centre
1064 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON

Where Else to Find Me

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Email me at MattMooreWrites@gmail.com


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