Monday, October 6, 2008

Tales from the Conference: Agent Alyssa Eisner Henkin on pacing

What moves your story forward?

My mind must've been in Lala land this conference, because in addition to thinking about paper dolls being brought to life by us Good Fairies, I couldn't help but think of Slip~n~Slides when, Agent, Alyssa Eisner Henkin spoke on the subject of pacing.

Alyssa suggested that a motif" can be like a roadmap to your story. A Character trait or some other motif can help move your story forward.

So, there I sat, thinking that the plot is like the slip~n~slide, the characters are the squirts of water from the hose and the motif is inflatable raft that takes the reader from the beginning to the end.

Once example she used was in "The Secret Garden" where the tantrums of the protagonist were a motif used to show us the progression of the the characters growth.

Well . . . I think the sovereign Lord of the universe is also sovereign over Blogland, because it just so happens that I picked up a copy of THE TOP TEN USES FOR AN UNWORN PROM DRESS by Tina Ferraro (hi Tina!) and I just finished reading it. Not only is it a fun read, but it is also a PERFECT example of using a motif to move the story forward. The motif is so strong, that it is even used in the title!

When Nicolette is dumped shortly before the Prom, she is left with a gorgeous dress that she does NOT want to return. So she makes a list of things that can be done with her unworn promdress. Nicotlette's mother encourages her to keep this humorous list as a good-natured way to deal with the disappointment.

The book isn't actually about the uses for the unworn prom dress. Instead, the list that she makes reflects what is going on in her life as she deals with boys, her relationship with her absentee father, her mothers inability to make mortgage payments, the strange behavior of her best friend, and all the other things going wrong in her life.

See, whaddidItellya! Perfect! So, study this book if you'd like to learn more about how to use a motif to move your story forward.

As always, I welcome any other "motif" suggestions or insights in the comment section!

Happy slip~sliding!


beth said...

I really wished I could have gone to this one. Henkin was my manuscript critiquer, and she mentioned some things that I heard were later brought up in her workshop (i.e. she said that my story needed a stronger motif). I heard there was a bit of controversy with this workshop, too! I loved the one I attended, but wish I could somehow have hidden a camera in this one and heard it, too.

TinaFerraro said...

Hi, Christy! I'm delighted my book gave you insight into your own writing! In fact, I have a similar story from listening to Paige Wheeler of Folio talk at RWA National a few years earlier. She discussed a similar concept, but called it a "thru-line," and I have used that idea to "hang my hat" ever since, to help keep me on track.

In fact, I relied on my thru-line even more heavily in HOW TO HOOK A HOTTIE, leaning on those "tips" and "how to's" whenever I started to lose my way.

Great discussion, and thanks again for referencing PROM DRESS!

C.R. Evers said...

Hey Beth!

There was some controvery? I must have missed that part. What was it over? I guess I was too busy thinking about slilp-n-slides, taking notes and making art out of my hard-candy wrappers to notice. ;0P
I thought she had some great advice!

Hi Tina! You're so sweet to drop by and share your story about the RWA "thru-line" That's so interesting! I'm going to use this lesson in my own writing as well.

Now that I think about it, I do remmeber this technique in your "Hottie" book too. I guess I just didn't know enough to know what it was called when I was reading it. Alyssa's "motif" talk must have opened my eyes to it all.

thanks for the insights!


Kelly Parra said...

So glad you picked up, Prom Dress, Christy, and so great of you blog about it! It's one of my faves of Tina's. :) :)

adrienne said...

Great advice, but now I have the song Slip Sliding Away stuck in my head!

C.R. Evers said...

Hi Kelly! Thanks for stopping by and congrats on INVISIBLE TOUCH coming out! Can't wait to read it. It sounds right up my alley.

Adrienne, sorry. Is it still in the song still in your head? ;0)


Brianna Caplan Sayres said...

The conference sounds wonderful! I've been enjoying reading through the many wonderful summaries you've written. Thanks so much for sharing!
(P.S I love the slip and slide analogy. So much fun!)

C.R. Evers said...

Thanks so much for stopping by!!! I'm so glad you've enjoyed my summaries. My hopes are for my posts to impart info, but also to be entertaining, even if just a little. ;0) I appreciate your kind words!!!


Kate said...

I have to admit to being a little green that you've had such a great time at the conference. There aren't too many opportunities for things like this where I am. But your summaries are jewels! They give me lots to think about. Thanks, Christy.

C.R. Evers said...

Hey Kate! Maybe you'll have to take a little Holiday over here in the States around conference time.



sruble said...

Christy, Thanks for another wonderful conference tip with a real life example! It really helps to have it in context, not only with a book, but with the Slip-N-Slide.

BTW, wasn't there some sort of banana slip-n-slide?

Rena said...

Great post. Loved the slip-n-slide aspect. :)

C.R. Evers said...

HI Rena and Sruble! Glad you like the slip~n~slide. :0)

p.s. I"m not sure about the banana slip~n~ slide. Sounds fun though!