Worldbuilding from a Character-Driven Perspective
Presented by: Jeffe Kennedy
Date: July 25th, 2021 – 11:00am – 5:00pm MT (aka – 1:00pm – 7:00pm EST)
Fee: OIRW Member $25| Non-Member $35
Worldbuilding isn’t just for fantasy authors. Every genre requires that the world of that particular story be groomed and refined to support the story without bogging it down. Knowing how to create a convincingly realistic world and then how to pare away unnecessary explanation is an important acquired skill for any author. And one way to discover this perfect balance is to go at the problem from a character-driven perspective.
In this Master class, rather than starting with worldbuilding, we’ll start with character—and then build a world to maximize the character arc. Whether you write in a speculative fiction genre—like fantasy, science fiction or paranormal—or something else entirely, this class will teach you how to choose setting, magic or tech systems, history of that world and the social dynamics that drive it. You’ll learn how to choose relevant details, how to discard others, and how to drop hints that are sufficient to immerse the reader in the world without drowning them.
Over the course of this day-long online class, we’ll explore worldbuilding from a character-driven perspective, break for writing and brainstorming exercises, then return for discussion. Then we’ll add to your knowledge and repeat that cycle. At the end of the day, you should have a fleshed-out world for your story, and a feel for when and how to provide information to the reader.
All works of fiction require worldbuilding. This is true even of stories set in the contemporary world because it’s impossible to replicate the complexity and detail of the entire world—the author must always focus and refine the details of the fictional world to fit the story. In science fiction and fantasy, we often create entirely new worlds, to the point where different physical laws, etc., might apply. Political systems come into play any time there are communities of people, and they often form the major conflicts in subgenres like epic fantasy, space opera, and military science fiction. In looking specifically at creating political systems in conflict with each other, we’ll explore how to ground the conflicts in the basic needs of people. This workshop starts with the standard needs of human beings (always the audience, if not the subject of the story), how political systems are constructed to supply those needs—and how the balance of power can be destabilized to create an effective fictional conflict.
Romance is often criticized for being “formulaic”—but what do you really know about writing romance?
The truth is, the genre is just as exciting and inventive as any other. And here to prove it is Jeffe Kennedy, a RITA® Award winning author of fantasy romance, contemporary romance and erotic romance. In this three-week workshop she’ll give a broad introduction to the romance genre, and its subgenres.
She’ll cover the basic expectations of the romance genre—including the HEA (happy ever after) and HFN (happy for now)—and discuss in detail how to employ tropes. From there, the class will move into structure, including internal and external conflict. In the third week, the discussion will expand into subgenres like Fantasy Romance or Romantic Suspense—and how to weave romantic arcs into other genres effectively.
Students will participate in exercises to practice skills and will be able to submit short scenes to the entire group for feedback. Kennedy will also provide detailed feedback to posted work. All skill levels are welcome, but this introductory class will be directed toward the romance newbie.
The judicious use of secrets and revelations can be a difficult skill for new writers to learn. Jeffe Kennedy, known for her slow reveal of deeply held secrets, worldbuilding details and using secrets to amplify sexual tension will teach skills to approaching this delicate task.
She’ll discuss when to withhold information and how that functions to build tension, even in books that aren’t technically mysteries. She’ll also give pointers on how to know when NOT to withhold information and how to seed important clues. She’ll cover how to create suspense through setting, body language, and dialogue. Finally, Jeffe will discuss different approaches for the big reveal and how to avoid info-dumping so that the pace remains climactic.
Feel like one more workshop on promo might send you over the edge?
Anne Lamott famously noted that while writing, as difficult as the process may be, delivers gifts publication makes people crazy. Many writers get into the business first out of love, however, love doesn’t pay the bills and it can take a while for writing to pay a living wage. The writer who has no other financial support often has no choice but to work one or more “day jobs” to keep the money coming in. The dream, of course, is quitting that day job to make a living entirely as a writer. What can happen, however, is that intense focus on bringing in money from writing – from scrutinizing the marketplace, to constantly checking Amazon rankings, to jealous obsession with other writers’ sales figures – can suck all the joy out of what was once a dream, and even reduce the art of writing into an algorithm. The Taoists believe that focusing on monetary gain instead of on their concept of virtue “maddens the mind.” Jeffe Kennedy, a comparative religious studies major who did her honors thesis on the Tao Te Ching, and a practicing Taoist for most of her life, will discuss these concepts and encourage round table discussion of people’s experiences. It’s not that money is the root of all evil, but that the love of money is. There’s nothing wrong with plying our art to gain wealth, but there are ways to refocus our attention on the core values that truly matter, such as telling a memorable story while navigating the tumultuous publishing world.
Fondly known as “The Spreadsheet Queen,” Jeffe Kennedy has long discussed in various venues her extensive Excel spreadsheets for tracking writing progress. She tracks word count by day, week, month, and year, along with writing goals and Gantt charts for planning workload and release schedules. While she freely shares a blank template of her “Progress Count” workbooks, multiple people have requested a tutorial in using them. In this workshop, Jeffe will walk people through her worksheets, where to find the embedded formulae and conditional formatting to highlight goals reached. She’ll explain how to adapt the spreadsheets for personal use and give suggestions for building in additional features. Every attendee will receive a blank template workbook to adapt, along with an annotated reference guide to Jeffe’s version, complete with examples. The discussion will also include how to set personal writing goals, what to take into consideration and how to train the writing muscle for greater endurance, much like training the body for a marathon. In addition, the general Three-Act story structure will be introduced, as the spreadsheets calculate progress toward climaxes, which allows even far-end pantsers like Jeffe to predict beats and overall novel length.
Genre definitions have a profound influence on writers’ careers. From the first queries where we must specify the book’s genre to long-term decisions about pursuing or giving up on a “dead” genre, dealing with what feels like a false construct is a necessary skill. However, following our hearts and inspiration often means tossing aside these considerations.
Or chopping them to pieces in a murderous rage.
But shedding conventions can be what sets a book apart—and can take a writer’s career from midlist to break-out.
So… how do you know? More—how do we find the courage to embrace a bold move?
Jeffe Kennedy will discuss how she went from being a “Crack Ho” – being told that her work fell in the cracks between genres – to receiving a nomination for Book of the Year and an RT Seal of Excellence for the one title each month that stands out from all the rest by an innovative twist on a familiar story or pushing genre boundaries. She’ll discuss genres and sub-genres, where they overlap, how romantic storylines can tip the balance one way or the other — and coloring inside the lines and stepping across them.
Learn to identify your bad habits as a writer to improve the quantity and quality of your work. Jeffe will share some of her approaches, such as Own Your Process, Kick Excuses to the Curb, Listen to Your Editors – and Learn, Study Successful Authors and Keep a List of Recurring Tics. She’ll also help participants discover their own process and what might be getting in the way of more and better writing.
Can’t make it to one of Jeffe’s In Person Appearances? Jeffe loves to Skype or Facetime with book groups to discuss her books, so feel free to contact her.
Here is a list of the workshops I’ll be giving. More information will be added when available.
A description of the workshops can be found here
Identifying and Breaking Bad Writing Habits
Dates: JUN 2 -30th, 2020
Fee: OIRW Member $25| Non-Member $35
Keeping Secrets and Creating Suspense
Dates: AUG 3 -31, 2020
Fee: OIRW Member $25| Non-Member $35
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High heat sex scenes are popular like never before. But what makes a scene go from ho-um to cold shower-worthy? The key is sexual tension. Without that basic conflict – as with all stories – the momentum of the scene will falter and lose steam. Not what you want with your sex scenes!
In this class, students will learn first what creates sexual tension and then how to build it in their own stories for maximum impact. Dubbed by her editor as “The Queen of Sexual Tension,” Jeffe Kennedy will give away her secrets for drawing out the suspense, building expectations and finally delivering those crucial climactic moments. Students will be able to submit short scenes to Kennedy or the entire group for feedback.