Monday, July 23, 2007

Writing Tips - The Michael Hauge RWA Talks

Yes, at your request here we go... Though only TWO of you asked for it so I hope everyone else is okay with it - if not - well - you didn't vote so you'll get what you're given... ;)

Now anyone who reads the blog here will know that I discovered Michael Hauge BECAUSE of the RWA conference. When I read through the schedule of the conference at home to try and decide what I wanted to try and get to I came across his name and the 60 Second Pitch book he had written, so off I skipped to Amazon to order it. And soooo much of it resonated with me that before I'd even finished it I went skipping back to order his other book on writing Screenplays. (And I blogged about it all here) Hence a fan was born in my house...

Now for the first of his talks we had a nice large lecture room, which is more than can be said of the afternoon sessions where they foolishly gave us a small room so that people ended up sitting in the aisles and crowding out through the doors that couldn't be closed. But even in the morning there were still people crowding in past the time we were supposed to begin so the sessions ran back to back without a break. (A blessing in disguise I felt cos man-oh-man can this guy pack a lot of info into his talks!) And despite note-taking like a complete lunatic all the way through I was glad I bought the DVD's afterwards so I could go through everything at a slower speed to take it all in! (I even bought a second copy of the pitch book just so I could get him to sign it...)

Both lectures carry over from Screenwriting to Romance/Novel writing and frankly it's a shame that a book hasn't been put together on the subject 'cos really - it makes PERFECT SENSE! And for me, it wasn't so much a case of learning something very new as having WHAT I ALREADY DO shown to me in such a way that I felt like less of a fraud (which incidentally I frequently do when faced with so many people trying again and again to break into the business when I just seem to have hit the right place at the right time - luck of the Irish they say, right?)
What the lectures also did was make me think more deeply about my longer book - the one I started just for me - and where it could be strengthened. And I think by having a method that makes sense to you, you can refer back to it in times of trouble to help you get through that inevitable *slump* we all hit (you KNOW the one I mean!). By using the method you examine what you've done and think about what's wrong or that's just plain not working or can be made stronger in order to write your way out of the hole and continue, right? Right.

So here we go. And I warn you - this is more than ONE blog's worth! Also, I don't wanna annoy Michael in any way by reproducing some of my notes so I'll say this and LISTEN UP GANG - some of this is MY INTERPRETATION of what he meant. And if you haven't already then GET HIS BOOKS either through his Website here or Amazon UK here or Amazon. com here. You can even buy the DVD set of his talks with Chris Vogler at Amazon.com here. If you want to understand some of the writing/pitching process then you know these kinds of books MAKE SENSE and if you get a chance, please do go to one of his seminars!(they're usually listed on his website) GO - TAKE A PEN AND LOT'S OF PAPER and MAKE LOT'S OF NOTES LIKE I DID!

So... Michael begins by outlining some of the universal themes which carry over from film to novels and vice-versa (using well known films along the way to illustrate his point - which you guys all know I LOVE). And the first thing he said that I started the silent head nodding thing at, was that every film and book's primary goal is to ELICIT EMOTION. In other words, he says that people who go to the movies/read a book do so to experience the emotions themselves. And that makes sense doesn't it?

We all know that a romance reader should live vicariously through the heroine. (I may have mentioned that a time or two before in my Writer's Tips and Book With Trish series - all of which are on the Writer's Tips page on my Website) So it makes sense that we ELICIT EMOTION in that reader. We want her to laugh, get annoyed/angry, maybe cry and definitely hope and want for the story to have a HEA (Happily Ever After) In fact the ROMANCE LINE will talk often about the ROLLERCOASTER RIDE and that ride will include all those things - the highs and the lows of falling in love along the way - right? So Michael is most definitely off on the right note - you with me?

He then says that the CORE FOUNDATION of our story relies on three things: 1/Character and 2/ Desire and 3/ Conflict
Well that makes perfect sense too, doesn't it? Let's look at it a little closer... He says that the 1/ CHARACTER is the vehicle for EXPERIENCING THE EMOTION. And again - perfect sense - because if you look back at what we've said again and again on this blog and even already in this post we ALWAYS say that A/ THE READER LIVES VICARIOUSLY THROUGH THE HEROINE and B/ The HERO should be someone we would WANT and can therefore completely understand the HEROINE WANTING. So our characters ARE the VEHICLE FOR EXPERIENCING THE EMOTION - yes? Yuh-huh.
Then Michael describes 2/DESIRE as WHAT DRIVES THE STORY FORWARDS. So in other words in order to drive the story forwards we have to make that desire as far as possible away from the goal of achieving it. (The Goal being the fulfilment of the Desire) Let's just say in the Romance Line for instance, simplistically speaking, that the desire = the need to gain the love of the other character, yes? Well in that case we then have to think about what holds them back from achieving that goal, which brings us neatly to CONFLICT.
Michael says that 3/ CONFLICT is what CREATES THE EMOTION. And again let's break this down into Romance Writing terms - in order to make a story to begin with there has to be something strong and believable that holds our characters apart - yes? Otherwise we have a 500 word story. So whatever holds them apart (and away from that goal they desire even if they don't know they have the desire or deny to themselves that they do) is the CONFLICT. And when you have obstacles in the way - conflicts - then battling through them leads to an EMOTIONAL JOURNEY hence the reader EXPERIENCES THE EMOTION through the CHARACTERS JOURNEY. Still with me???
Now he then goes on to tell us that at least 90% of Hollywood movies have four basic DESIRES. So let's look at these and see where we could use them in a romance novel by giving you examples of where I've unwittingly used them myself...
The first one is TO ESCAPE.
- In a movie this could be as obvious as the need to escape a prison cell or a hostage situation or a poor background. But what could it be in a Romance Line novel? Well, for me in Project: Parenthood (my HOLT finalist this year) we had Teagan, the heroine, who was trying to ESCAPE from an emotionally starved childhood by burying herself in work and protecting herself from pain by making sure she would never be trapped in a similar kind of marriage as the one her parents had. Now this means that in order to create CONFLICT I then had to introduce something that would challenge the decisions she'd made, yes? That something of course was then my hero Brendan who tested her resolve and made her look long and hard at those decisions and face up to the fact that she might not have been completely honest with herself - hence causing emotional issues and an inner battle which is...? Yup, it's CONFLICT. (and watch as we come back to this book to illustrate visible and invisible journey's btw...)
The second one is TO RETRIEVE.
- Now this is quite simply to get something back, maybe even something you once had that you've since lost, right? So in a movie it could be a stolen artifact or a kidnapped child (and Michael was soooo much better at choosing those which is WHY you should go to his talks...) but in a Romance Novel how would this particular desire translate? Well, for me, in Marriage Lost And Found we had a couple who'd been married and then due to unforeseen circumstances been forced apart... They therefore, throughout the story, and whether or not they chose to admit or realize it til late on - sought to RETRIEVE the love they had lost... See? Makes perfect sense yet again - and now you can see why this man's way of looking at things makes sense of what I do...
The third is TO STOP something from happening.
- In the movies this could be as obvious as stopping an asteroid from hitting the earth. In my book O'Reilly's Bride aka The Pineapple (the book nominated by RT for Best Silhouette Romance of 2006) we had the hero, Sean, trying to STOP the heroine, Maggie, from seeking a partner on the internet when he knew what she actually needed was Sean himself. Now yes that was only his half of the story DESIRE-speaking cos you could then say that at the same time Maggie was trying to ESCAPE pain of her own by seeking the family she couldn't give Sean - but it does mean that our Michael is still right because those two desires are still on his list, aren't they?
And the fourth is TO WIN
- arguably the most important aspect of all romance novels because the DESIRE would be TO WIN the love of another, yes? Well yes, cos that's the whole damn point of the flipping story!!! So I'm not even gonna quote you one of my own as an example here - cos D-U-H...
Where it then get's interesting is that Michael then discusses the differences in a story between the VISIBLE and the INVISIBLE journeys. (HUH? I can hear you say) Well let's just look at all we've covered in the DESIRE category shall we? Remember the story is based on the CORE FOUNDATION of CHARACTER + DESIRE + CONFLICT according to Michael. And the DESIRES most commonly used are TO ESCAPE or TO RETRIEVE or TO STOP or TO WIN...
Well a great many of these DESIRES are part of the VISIBLE JOURNEY. They're obvious, on the surface for all to see if you just look at them as a reader. (not necessarily obvious to the characters themselves you understand... ) But when it comes to the INVISIBLE JOURNEY we have to look at the characters more closely and how their INNER JOURNEY OF TRANSFORMATION can add to the CONFLICT.
Right - seeing as this blog entry is already almost a flipping chapter long I'm gonna take a break at this point!!! I'll come back to the characters and their inner journey next time and how the INVISIBLE JOURNEY cannot exist without the VISIBLE one. If you have questions gang then you need to SPEAK UP as we go along while this is all still fresh in my mind! And remember this is MY INTERPRETATION of this talk and the very very best way to learn it all is to attend a talk with Michael as soon as you can manage it...
Oh and REMEMBER you can order the ENTIRE LECTURE 'Writing Romantic Comedies and Love Stories' from Michael Hauge's Website!!!

15 comments:

Biddy said...

You can't stop there!! I NEED the invisible journey goddamit!!

Rachael Blair said...

Thanks again Trish for providing us with SOOOOOOOOOOO much!!

Jenna Allen said...

What are you, his pimp? My goodness.

I dare you to dedicate your next romance to him...and send it to him.

Ahem. How's the chapter?

Jenna Bayley-Burke said...

Sorry...darned multiple personalities.

Janet said...

This is so interesting. Thank you for doing this, Trish.

So is the visible journey what romance writers think of as the character's external goal? eg Sleepless in Seattle --heroine's goal is to find the man on the radio. This her visible journey, right?

Marcy said...

Great stuff, Trish. Thanks!

Trish said...

Biddy - SHEESH - lemme catch my breath! lol...

Rachael hun - YOU-ARE-WELCOME

Jenna whatever-last-name -you-use... in a word... YES. And the chapter has slowed somewhat due to demands such as SIGHTSEEING and SHOPPING and a TOUR OF THE NEW YORK OFFICES!!! So there... all valid reasons I feel...

Janet - YES - you're bang on with that analogy and then there is a visible/invisible kinda of outer persona versus inner essence thing with the characters too - which I'm trying VERY HARD not to make too complicated with the notes I'm doing for the next blog... you see I KNOW what I mean and I know what HE MEANS but am trying hard to make it all match up in a way that'll make sense to YOU GUYS... So if I contradict myself at any point I know I can call on you guys to QUESTION ME ON IT...

But as I only have a day and a half left in glorious New York I'm afraid I've abandoned my sidewalk cafe table in the sunshine where I was doing my notes in favour of some last minute shopping and sight seeing... I could live in this city you know...

Will try and put the next part up later tonight (NY time that is)

Trish said...

*waves at Marcy who she honestly wasn't trying to ignore...*

Biddy said...

Ooo we could start a writing commune in NYC!!!

Patricia W. said...

Discovered Michael's website last week, when beginning yet another wip. Felt like I'd found the Holy Grail. Just the article on the Three Act structure was enough to put me over the hump. I knew about it but no one explained it as simply as he did. No one.

I'm a believer.

Melissa Leavitt said...

Ok, Trish is right! Michael is FABulous.

I bought his dvd 'Writing Romantic Comedies and Love Stories' 2 weeks ago and it is sensational. Too many, "ohhh!" moments to name.

BTW, it is cheaper to buy it at his website than the bigger book stores. Shipping and all, it cost me 30.00 CAN. WORTH EVERY PENNY!!

Trish, sounds like you are having a blast! :)

Natasha said...

Hurry home - we're missing you in this time zone!

Janet said...

Thanks Melissa, I'm going to buy that.

Michaels is having a sale on his website at the moment so now is a good time to buy.

If, like me, you don't live in America, you can pay by paypal or credit card. Postage for outside America is the normal $7.95 that everyone pays, plus an extra $7.00 for international shipping (per order not per item)

Currency calculator here:
http://tinyurl.com/4y6p

Ray-Anne said...

Hi Trish. Thank you so much for that - I am thinking of ordering the courses. I have referred to this article by Michael many times in the past, and still think he is a master at condensing so much useful info into so few words!
http://www.screenplaymastery.com/RomanticComedies.htm

Hope you are having a fab time - Ray-Anne

http://mischiefandfilth.blogspot.com/

Trish said...

Okay ladies - so I can assume that we are now forming the Michael Hauge Appreciation Society - possibly based in our writers commune in New York, yes? ;)

Patricia W - HI!!! And GREAT FIRST NAME AND SURNAME INITIAL I FEEL ;) Yes - that's EXACTLY HOW I FELT when I discovered his books and hence why I'll FOREVERMORE refer back to his teachings... GLAD-TO-FIND-ANOTHER-FELLOW-FAN!!! Welcome!!!

MELISSSSSAAAAA!!!! THATS THE VERY TALKS HE BASED THESE TALKS ON ADN ONE OF THE DVD'S I BOUGHT!!!! A-N-D I bought the other one which is a three disc set with Chris Vogler... *rubs hands in glee* So seeing you've got it I FULLY EXPECT more input on things you agree and disagree with me on... xxx Hee...

Yes Natasha honey - I WUV OO 2...

Ooooohhhh Janet - come back and tell us what you thought when you get it - okay???????? PROMISE????

RAY-ANNE - *NATURALLY* I'm gonna tell you YOU SHOULD! LOL But then I think we've established that I'm a fan, right???

And may I just say I'M LOVIN ALL THESE COMMENTS ..... Well, yes I guess I kinda can... cos... well.. you know... it's MY BLOG...