A few words about the subjects we are teaching…
Fiction transports us.
It’s make believe that inspires us to dream, hope, and wonder. Whether it be literary, romance, young adult, science fiction, fantasy, mystery or any of the myriad genre possibilities—the created worlds in stories contain the power to lift us up and move us.
Writing those fictional words is a magical, transporting experience for the writer too. Imagine, if you will, sitting down at your computer and placing one word after the other to eventually create a new reality.
Something sparks an idea. Maybe you see a mother chasing after her runaway toddler in the park on your morning run. And, for whatever reason, that moment inspires a story. Maybe it’s comedic. The kid has been a runner since he could walk. The mother spends all her time chasing him down. For some reason, he just wants to get away.
Where’s he going? What’s he trying to escape? His impending adulthood? Possibly. Write it out to find out. Half the fun in writing an idea is seeing where the characters you create take you. It’s a mystical (and addictive) experience.
The word essay comes from the French word essayer—“to try” or “to attempt.”
Essay writing derives from a Frenchman’s (Michel de Montaigne) attempts to form his thoughts into the written word. The modern essay is the kingpin of all nonfiction writing. And, it still remains the medium where writers try to form their thoughts into the written word.
Unlike fiction, nonfiction is fact-based. It’s not made up but, it is the story of something that happened to someone in real time at one point in history. The world of nonfiction is vast and includes many disciplines from memoir, to essay, to biography, to historical, to opinion pieces, to creative nonfiction, to newspaper and magazine articles.
The nonfiction writer should, however, make the telling of his or her story interesting for the reader. That is accomplished via “intimate detail, rounded characters, cinematic scene, vivid setting, dialogue, insight and conflict” as well as “imagery, metaphor, the entire richness of words” [Dinty Moore, Flash Nonfiction.]
The nonfiction writer is telling a story from reality, pulled out of a real-world experience, but it needs to read like a piece of fiction—full of emotion, and lyrical description. Good nonfiction can carry the reader off into the clouds, just like good fiction. So, join us and tell us about something that happened to you in your life.
Almost the diametric opposite to fiction and nonfiction, screenwriting is sparse and minimal. The words a screenwriter puts on the page must tell the reader what they will see on a movie screen (or on a television, computer screen, digital device or cell phone).
The art of screenwriting is precise, concise and architectural. It is the outline, the skeleton from which the filmmakers create their collaborative visual story. The story is, of course, contained in the pages of a screenplay but it becomes its whole entity with the finished product: a movie, or TV show, a web series or a video game. Learning to write a screenplay is about knowing how much to put on the page, when to reveal information, how to have your characters tell the story via dialog and action. A screenplay describes the visual aspects of the story, it doesn’t describe the character’s internal thoughts and emotions—those are evoked via symbolism, action and subtext.
A screenwriter is a bit of a magician. The end product contains a lot of inferred information that doesn’t necessarily appear on the page. This information is revealed in the way a character gestures, looks, moves, or speaks (their tone of voice and the words they utter). There are standard elements of screenwriting that most screenwriters invoke: the three-act structure, plot, dialogue, and description.
And, screenplays come to be via several differing avenues: an original story, a true story, an existing screen work or a literary work like a novel, poem, play, comic book or short story. Writing a screenplay is an achievable challenge. What story ideas might you have that require being seen in a visual medium? Surely, there is no end to the possibilities. The rewards of seeing what you wrote as a screenwriter come to life on a screen can be the thrill of a lifetime.
Pen & Paper Writing Workshops