Monday, September 07, 2015

GenCon 2015 Part 3 TGIF, with other acronyms to come

Part 3 TGIF, with other acronyms to come

(Before I forget, as I know some of this may border on tedium, you won't want to miss the final installment in this series detailing the events of Sunday morning wherein I undergo the most difficult moments of my writing endeavors thus far: a professional writing critique.)

TGIF ! Not really. I was on vacation, it was all good. I used Park Whiz to reserve parking in advance. I picked 3 different lots at an average cost of $6.00 per day. My favorite lot was at 323 W Michigan St, it was small, flat and had a row of trees along one side so I could park and have shade on my car in the afternoon. It was an easy 12 minute walk, three-quarters of a mile, to the convention center past the state capitol building and the Hyatt Regency.

Panel 7

Friday's sessions started for me at 9:00 am with Writer's Craft 101 (Steve Drew, Geoffrey Girard, Josh Vogt, Jason Schmetzer, Kameron "We Have Always Fought" Hurley)

Oh, I stayed out by the airport at the Baymont Inn and Suites. Nothing to write home about, so I didn't. But breakfast was passable and it was an easy 18 minute drive to downtown. Hotel costs remain the biggest burden at these events, $92 per night for 4 nights pushed it well over $400. Best if you have a roomie.

Josh Vogt is a good example of one of the authors writing tie-in novels for RPG developers like Privateer Press and Paizo, as well as his own stuff such as "Enter the Janitor" which sounds a bit like Ghost Busters, but I could be way off. Anyway I had a good convo with Josh on the dealer floor later at one of the game companies booths about how he got his stuff marketed.


1)      Steve Drew: "There's no leveling up in a writing career." It was a good quip but they each then shared an anecdote of how they had, actually, leveled up through various actions, e.g. attending a writing workshop, joining a key critique group, etc.

2)      Jay Lake: "Do not start a new project until you finish the one you're on." (First pass, anyways.)

3)      Authors tend to be authority averse -- writing selects for that.

4)      Persistence

5)      How to do dialog? Do multiple stuff at once: authentic, tension, information, character -- do not write it the way people actually speak: b-o-r-i-n-g.

6)      Read dialog aloud though to see if it rings true, but remember the end of the above note.

7)      See Elmore Leonard for dialog

8)      Read movie scripts -- most are available on the web

9)      Recommended: David Mammot (Glengarry Glen Ross)

10)   Recommended: Rachel Aaron: "2,000 to 10,000"

11)   30 second fantasy editing: check a) character motivations b) Inconsistencies c) swords

Panel 8

Character Craft: Motivation and Obstacles

(Howard Taylor, Elizabeth Bear, Gwenda Bond, John Howard Jacobs, Lauren M Roy)

My first session with Howard! But he was moderating so he mostly tried to stay out of the others' way. He's a good moderator like that, but it doesn't let his wit shine through. There was later for that.

I think this is where I first ran into fellow Writing Excuses "Out of Excuses Retreat" 2013 alumni Christy, Alissa, Scott, and Kendra-who-goes-by-Kenny. Twas good to share with them again.


1)      Make them want something -- then take it away.

2)      What's their worldview?

3)      Remember the old standards: man vs. man; man vs. nature; man vs. self

4)      Strip away character until essence exposed

5)      Revenge is a strong motivator; regret is not.

6)      Connections: Mad Max to dog, then to feral boy

7)      Training montage / flashback to build competence quotient

8)      Use other character reactions to main character actions to build competence

9)      Build empathy in dialog by mentioning similar experiences

10)   Put two things in front of character and make them choose -- need to be consequences; sometimes needs to come out negative

11)   "When in doubt have a man enter through the door with a gun." - Raymond Chandler

12)   The two-year-old's question: "Why?", "Why?"

Panel 9

Dialogue and Dialogue Tags

(Kerrie L Hughes, Robin D Laws, Elizabeth Bear, Chris Jackson)


1)      On tags: inclined to leave them in for a novel but take out as many as possible in a short story.

2)      "No, are you certain?" The water glass was cool in her hand.

3)      Long back and forth should have a certain amount of tags.

4)      Remove 75% of "nodded" and ilk (smiled, grinned, etc.)

I actually scheduled myself a break in here for lunch. Was hungry. Also I had signed up for the "Foam Fighting Arena" but the weapons were heavy and my wrist and arm were sore and I was gonna feel silly, which was wrong. The folks competing were having a grand time and it was clearly definable as "research". Sigh.

I did wander around the Dealers Floor for a couple hours. It is huge. Hundreds of game manufacturers, collectibles dealers, furniture makers, and an authors and artists section. Everything is set up for easy interaction with the folks manning the booths. You can easily chat with game creators, science fiction authors and fantasy artists. And in most cases buy their wares. They also had scheduled autograph signings, mostly authors but I saw Summer Glau (from the Firefly franchise, etc.) signing for a couple of hours and was very cordial with all the fans that I saw her interact with.

Panel 10 (Not actually a panel)

My final scheduled writing session on Friday was a paid session with Michael Stackpole. This was him giving his prepared class on characterization and while there was a lot of useful information the tone was much more commercial than the panels and other sessions that I attended. You won't find this information on his website since, as he noted, he makes a portion of his living this way; and so I won't include it here for the most part. Maybe just a tidbit or four:

1)      Plot is a way to facilitate characters

2)      Convey info through characters, e.g. one says "All the trolls we've ever come across are eight feet tall."

3)      Sometimes it's okay to do blitzkrieg characterization: George was always well dressed and sang along with the choir but you never wanted to trust him with the collection plate.

4)      Roger Zelazney: "A short story is the last chapter of a novel that you haven't written." Get in. Define. Get out.

Panel 11

I hadn't pre-registered but there was a late panel called Advanced Kickstarter, not that I ever intend to run a Kickstarter campaign but Howard Tayler was on it and not as the moderator so I stayed to get a little dose of Howard. Rest of the panel: Susan Morris, Michael Sullivan, Brad Beaullieu, Stephen Hood.

I didn't take many notes, but these things, done well, are a ton of work. Clearly you would want to use the tools:,, etc.

I did ask a question about setting the goal, e.g. is there a formula that if you know you have X number of fanatic fans and Y number of more casual fans that you could expect X*m + Y*n + C ? I think it was a bit too much math to get across verbally, especially this late in the day, but it did spark a discussion of how indispensable a good Excel spreadsheet can be.

A pleasant evening walk back to my car and then I hit Kroger from some fruits and veggies for dinner; oh, and cookies; some for Saturday, too.

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