Brisbane Writers Festival 2014 – and a revelation


As usual I had a great time at BWF. I love that every year I can come home with something new, be it knowledge on a new topic or style of writing; ideas on my current projects (or the beginnings of new ones); or an introduction to a new creative pathway, something I had never considered before.

This year I got the distinctive feeling of everything falling into place. As if all of my presenters had gotten together beforehand to give me a personalised festival experience – some contradictory but perfectly worked out to have me decide for myself what I thought.

To explain, I attended a number of workshops that pinpointed key parts of the creative writing process (rather than the overall-style workshops I have attended in the past). I felt that now as an intermediate level writer I benefitted so much more from these classes, able to apply the examples to my own works in progress and to ask questions specific to my issues. I have worked out things that do and do not work for me (although that is an ever-evolving process, even for the professionals!) and I could join in on discussions.

Thankfully this year had quite a few presenting writers from my fields of interest – science fiction, fantasy and action-crime. In the past festivals have been dominated by historical fiction, literature and that ever popular field of crime that I’m just not into.

This year the presenters agreed on one thing: info dumps suck (agreed).

Negative space is good. (ie. it’s what you don’t say)

These are hard things to achieve in genres where world building is required. So the gentle, subtle insertion of information is the way to go. One author even avoids physical description as much as possible. Lenny Bartulin prefers psychological and behavioural description – he says everyone is going to ‘see’ the characters differently anyway, so let them!

It was Lenny Bartulin that dropped the bomb last weekend. I had arrived at his ‘Character Building’ workshop tired, flustered and not entirely sure if I was going to enjoy myself at the festival given the terrible few weeks I’d had preceeding it. But about half way through the class he (figuratively) slapped me across the face with the revelation I needed.

 “Noir revealed to me my dissatisfactions with contemporary fiction, and one in particular, which was a relief to admit: I was bored by much of it. And as Keith Richards once stated, there’s nothing worse than boring.”

This is a quote from an interview he gave on Radio National but it is almost word-for-word what he said to us that Saturday morning. I urge you to read the full interview.

And I realised. I was so bored with trying to be a writer. With reading the classics and pretending I cared about them or even understood half of them. I have never been ashamed of loving science fiction. But I felt like it was a waste of my time. Lenny’s words reignited that passion I felt as a teenager, reading Brave New World. Science fiction excites me. And if I am excited by it, then I will do a far better job writing it than struggling away at literature, trying to win competitions and gain publication credits. I will be a lot happier with myself too.

And then I met Mike Jones at the Transmedia Storytelling workshop. This guy does everything. But he had me hooked in the first three minutes. He talked about immersive entertainment, where technology is the solution to the narrative experience (and not the other way around).

He is not anti-books. He is not pro-TV or games. Mike believes in finding the best platform for the story, be it books, comics, episodic web or TV shows, movies, console games or smartphone apps.

The session was jam-packed full of information on this concept and ideas for developing your own projects in this vein. I would only do him an injustice by trying to summarise it in a paragraph here so definitely head on over to his website if you want to know more.

Mike believes in creating the story world. And as he explained why (and how to define it), I realised it was the missing link for the myriad ideas I had floating around in my head. I have a world. I do not have a novel, or a comic or a webisode. I have all these things, branching from the same place.

And something I will write more about very soon, is the delineation between books being intellectual and the more modern entertainment such as TV and movies and even interactive games being non-intellectual forms of entertainment:

It’s all rubbish.

Hello inspiration.

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