“When Characters Take the Stage”
Saturday, April 18, 2015 11:00 AM-1:00 PM
Thinking of writing a personal history? A memoir? Every author of fiction and nonfiction faces the challenge of bringing in characters or “real” persons. What do we say, how much do we say, when is the best timing, and how do we pace character details? Or does it matter?
Definitely it matters, according to Jo Haraf, who says that when writers sit down to compose, they develop characters who through action, dialogue, thought or physical appearance claim, “This is who I am!” These first steps create personas, ripe for reinforcement or—even better, intrigue or contradiction—as the story continues.
In a stirring presentation chockfull of tips, Haraf will demonstrate the effects of character introductions and, drawing from works by well-known authors, how characters evolve through a story’s conclusion. Haraf will discuss the four ways a character may appear, what the author says by the introduction, and how first impression may change over time.
Whether fiction or non-fiction, characters (people) play a critical role in our narratives. Meeting attendees are invited to bring examples of how they introduce a character in their own work, especially fiction or memoir.
Haraf comes to Sacramento with a reputation for concise and helpful presentations. After retiring as Chief Information Officer for a global 50 law firm, she pursued her dream to write. She began to study fiction at various colleges. People who have heard her call her “smart, personable and a … good writer and teacher.” A popular speaker on writing craft, she refers to herself as a lifelong “techno-geek” turned born-again fiction writer. Having written hundreds of articles, she blogs, produces poetry and short stories about 1920s New York. She is a proud member of the California Writers Club and the Historical Novel Society.
Catching Up with Bay Area’s Jo Haraf
Q. You speak on many different topics. What are some of the topics that you speak on?
A. From time to time, I become obsessed with an element of craft. Once my research is complete, I’m always eager to share my insights with others. My topics have included: the structure of novels and memoir with retrospective narrators, elegant transitions in time and place, duration and scenes in short stories (nearly all short stories take place in less than 24 hours, most under four), and, of course, how character introductions set the stage. Right now I’m tracking short story endings such as the death of a character, life goes on, and epiphanies.
Q. What do nonfiction writers stand to learn from presentations on fiction? Do you see a lot of overlap?
Memoir, biography, and history writers use the same techniques as fiction authors with the added challenge that their stories must be true. I’ve read hundreds of articles and books on 1920’s New York. The best scenes are those in which characters’ dialogue and action engage the reader. One day, from the top of my reading pile I grabbed Harold Waters’ Smugglers of Spirits-Prohibition and the Coast Guard Patrol. I randomly opened the book to a chapter that begins with a page and a half of narrative and then…”During the night of July 3, 1927, a picket boat covering the Narrows, at the entrance to New York Harbor, first picked up the lights, and then outlines of a small inbound freighter….” Waters continues with a scene reliving the capture of the rumrunner Economy and its 25,000 case cargo. After that scene, the remaining narration smells of the sea.
Q. What would you most like writers of any genre to understand?
I like to save authors from the same mistakes I’ve made. In the past, I revised poorly. I used to believe that finding a better verb or reordering sentences or paragraphs was revision. I now understand that revision starts with movie-style storyboard to confirm a varied emotional message and to confirm that the action is happening in the right order. I use other diagrams to link core themes to scenes and characters. Once I know I’m telling the right story in the right order, then I revise one element at a time.
- Monthly Luncheons are open to the public
- Cost is $17 for members, $20 for nonmembers
- The meeting fee includes lunch and beverage
- Cattlemens Restaurant, 12409 Folsom Blvd., Rancho Cordova, CA
The restaurant is located just east of Hazel Ave. at the northeast end of the Nimbus Winery complex along Highway 50. Cattlemens offers CWC a spacious meeting room with free WiFi, quality AV equipment, free off street parking and excellent food.