A couple of weeks ago I attended the Romance Writers of Australia annual conference. I had a ball. I caught up with friends, pitched my manuscript to agents, attended the fancy dress cocktail party (although this year I wussed on the costume and just wore a blingy tiara with my jeans for the tiara and tuxes theme) and went to heaps of workshops. There are heaps of awesome things I could talk about, but there are two important ones, so that’s what I am going to reflect on in this post.
The first is the awards evening. I didn’t attend but followed closely on twitter with a group of friends because I was up for a major award – a mentorship with esteemed Australian author, Valerie Parv. I finished second in the award and am totally thrilled. Valerie provides feedback and her feedback to me was extraordinarily uplifting (as an example: The writing is so strong here that there’s very little improvement to suggest except to keep up the good work.) I can’t be disappointed with that and I feel like I won.
The second thing I wanted to talk about was my lightbulb moment from conference. I can be pretty much assured of finding a lightbulb moment at every conference. According to the Collins Dictionary a lightbulb moment is: a moment of sudden inspiration, revelation or recognition. This year the moment came in author and Tule editor Kelly Hunter’s “Ten Top Tips for Character Development” workshop.
During the workshop, Kelly introduced us to Plutchik’s Wheel (see image below). You can see that each petal lists different emotions. We had to look at the strongest emotions (those in the centre of the flower) and order them from the emotion we are most comfortable displaying through to the one we are least comfortable showing. The one I am least comfortable with is rage. We then had to follow that emotion out along its petal until we came to the point we felt most comfortable. Kelly then asked if when we write a character, do we push ourselves to have that character show more than that emotion. For me it meant asking the question: do any of my characters show more than mild anger? Kelly said it is hard to write an emotion we aren’t comfortable expressing – how true! She said we should try and consider the emotional arc of a scene. Push your character beyond what we ourselves are comfortable with and to remember even when our character is happy, they will still carry some of that anger, or fear, or grief with them. I’ve never thought about that before…