Quote For The Weekend (Seminar Edition)

Pet the dog, people. Pet the dog.

Some writers, critics, and other assorted literati sniff at plotting as a tool of craft. A synonym of plotting, in this mindset, is slumming, something decent people just don’t do.  

—James Scott Bell

Whose seminar I attended this morning in Burbank for almost 3 hours, using my hair to cover my right eye so no one would notice the burst blood vessel I received from yesterday’s yoga session (that’s what I get for not remembering to breathe in the Superman pose). My stomach wouldn’t stop growling. Loudly. I think it was agitated by the aroma of the free mints on the table I sat near, and the fact that I’d had only a smoothie for breakfast. I heard my stomach. So did others. I also heard the following: LOCK SYSTEM. A great plot is the record of how a character deals with death. Why is something a formula??? Because it works!!! At this point I suddenly became distracted by a movie poster of Scream 3 on the wall. Was that Chris Rock’s face? From where I sat I couldn’t read the credits. I began obsessing on whether or not it was, in fact, Chris Rock and if it was, what the he** was he doing in a Scream 3. I haven’t seen Scream 3 (obviously). I haven’t even seen Scream 2. But I had to know if it was Chris Rock. I HAD TO KNOW. Since the classroom was smallish and I was seated in the 2nd row,  it suddenly occurred to me that JSB might notice that I was craning my neck and squinting at the poster. My stomach growled. My red eye twitched. I pulled myself together and floated back into the seminar. And I heard: Q FACTOR! Translation software for your imagination. Types of lead characters. Pet the dog. Beginning. Middle. End. THE STAKES MUST BE DEATH. At this point, I really wanted to look at that poster again—but I didn’t. Instead, I heard (and copied down) a quote by Robert Newton Peck: A plot is two dogs and one bone. Clips from City Slickers, Moonstruck and The Fugitive were interspersed between more advice and more quotes, such as this one by Alfred Hitchcock: A great story is life with the dull parts taken out. Oh, I gleaned much today, startled to discover that aspects of the “formula” referred to throughout the seminar actually live in my children’s novel–which was written organically, with non-organic coffee standing by and not a plot-sheet in sight.  As I mentioned earlier, reading about craft, attending lectures and seminars on craft? Difficult for me. But I’m making myself read and listen because it’s just not a bad idea to revisit some basics. Plus, I wouldn’t have been given the wonderful term PET THE DOG if I had skipped the seminar (my monster eye, general fatigue—I have good excuses to be a homebody and honor a certain little man’s request to sit in his room of primary colors and play with the Bat Cave). JSB is a thorough lecturer. And he’s read The Hunger Games. In fact, I think he’s read every book on the planet and seen every movie ever made. He is a walking/lecturing resource. Go see him if you can.

About PB Rippey

Writer, wife, mother, grateful. Fiction, memoir, poetry, kidlit (MG), member SCBWI. pbwrites.wordpress.com
This entry was posted in Children's Books, Fiction, Quotes, Writer quotes, Writing Tips and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Quote For The Weekend (Seminar Edition)

  1. PB Rippey says:

    In “The Fugitive”, when Harrison Ford helps that kid on the stretcher? That’s petting the dog. I don’t know about Chris Rock. Have not had time to IMDB. Let me know if you find out. I forgot all about it once I left, brain overflowing with novel improvement ideas. I did, however, watch “The Fugitive” last night. Such a good movie.

  2. Susan says:

    What does Pet the Dog mean, though??? And was it Chris Rock on the poster?

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