Sunday, April 25, 2010

Spotlight: The Catalyst


While on a long driving trip, I really enjoyed Tribute by Nora Roberts. I also enjoyed her Circle of Seven Trilogy audiobooks. But while driving, and my writer's mind churning, I thought what an excellent example Tribute was of how a CATALYST ignites a story (more later).

Recently, I mentored a writing friend, not something I do much of as I think that there are enough workshops and material available for writers to learn--if dedicated to learning. Plus writerly income depends on how the person manages productive time.

However, writing is, to some degree a hand-me-down craft and in this case, I did for her, what my first editor did for me. That was to mark up her work, then to explain the Whys. We've spoken since, so we're still friends :)

The most useful tool any beginning writer can have is the edited manuscript of a pro. When my edited manuscripts are returned to me, and especially when I first began, I really tried to understand the whys.

I'm reformatting some early published books for e-pub, because as another writer said, they deserve another go 'round. But in my own early work, I found some of my friend's same problems. Hey. We learn as we go--or we should.

If you can get a pro to hand mark your work, then explain, as I did with my friend, the whys, I promise you'll get some learning tips yourself. They say I'm a teacher, but I have my doubts, but I feel really good about this time as she is off and running.

Her story was good, but the fine points, digging in on details are going to be better, she says, applying it to her other work. I so hope this helps her become published.

Basically, her story was good, and that's important.

Her heroine is a catalyst. CATALYSTS rate high in creating stories. Tribute makes a wonderful CATALYST study. Basically, a woman comes back to where she grew up, to reclaim her grandmother's house--and uncover hidden secrets. (That's the name of one of my titles, Hidden Secrets :), so you know I love them. And I love the small towns, the web of characters that can evolve around a main character.

A CATALYST sets the ball rolling, stirs up the heat.

In this case, the Catalyst is a woman, a homecoming. HOMECOMINGS or events are also catalysts. A dog can be a catalyst, a wildfire, etc.

But most interesting in this case, as framed so well by Nora's Tribute, is the character who returns home to untangle old secrets and stir up hatreds, which she did not create, but could none the less.

In each of these Roberts Circle of Seven stories, someone is a catalyst. Someone comes into town to contribute to the story arc. In one instance, a character returns to town.

To begin, an earth-shaking event launches the trilogy, and Nora brings it to a brilliant conclusion.

Each of the characters brings something to the table, and that's important in anything, what is brought to the table.

Writers bring themselves and their unique (or should be) voice. That voice is developed by the editing, the fine-tuning of a story. Action/Reaction, keeping background characters in their place, highlighting the emotions, working them are all elements, but how the writer handles them, contributes to individual voice.

Now, the important concept about a human catalyst, say a h/h, is that they also evolve, changed by the situation they have ignited. So it is flip and flip back. The catalyst is affected by the events they set in movement.

I felt really good about mentoring my friend and that reason is because she's really working now on pushing her on work. So I know it was time well spent.

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