Monday, September 22, 2014

The Hero's Arc

(Note from the Editor:  With so many submissions from PPWC attendees, you are seeing a lag between conference time and the time we can schedule out the posts. But it's never too early to start applying our writers' insights into next year's conference!)


By Delores Gonzales Montaño


“Did you have fun at the Pikes Peak Writers’ Conference?” That was the prevailing question everyone asked after I dragged my butt home, tail tucked between my legs, collapsed on the couch and prepared to watch mindless hours of mindless television just to quiet the voices echoing in my head.

Voices that insisted on tension, and more tension; story structure, beginning, middle and end—Act I, Act II, Act III. Eliminate the back story.
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Voices: “What do you write?”

What do I write?

I wasn’t prepared to answer that question in one sentence. I should have practiced. “Literary Fiction.” At least that’s what it said on my name tag. Eyes glass over; what does that mean?

What does that mean?

It meant I sucked.

I needed potato chips—potato chips to silence the chatter. I found the sad remainder of a bag tucked away in the rear of the cabinet, saved for just such an occasion. Not a single chip remained intact, only crumbs. (I really should stop doing that.)

Now I was ready for mindless television: Mad Men. Doug was sleeping around. Doug was always sleeping around. But this was his neighbor! She knew his wife! He knew her husband! His daughter caught them doing it! Ooooh, the tension!

It was bedtime… after one more episode. I decided I could sleep late and take a really short shower in the morning.

Doug was drinking. Doug was always drinking. But now he was doing drugs! What did they inject into his ass? He wasn’t going to make his deadline! Ooooh, the tension!

One more episode. I didn’t need to shower in the morning, did I?

Eventually I pulled the plug and padded off to bed, new voices in my head. Tension; highly motivated characters, (I could do that); write what you love; break all the rules; tell your unique story.

2:00 a.m., the morning after the Conference, and I had a sleep-deprived revelation. Maybe I could write the story I wanted to write. A story that started at the end, was nonlinear, written in the first person and third person from the same point of view, used symbolism and adjectives—constantly, that wasn’t Y.A. Fantasy. I would just have to be brilliant! My last thought before I faded.

But brilliance has always had a way of eluding me. I was reminded of this the next morning after I hit the snooze button three times, piled my unwashed hair into a bun and cemented it with hairspray.

So, if not brilliance, then what?

The Hero’s Arc demands that the character changes. (I could do that). Maybe I can incorporate more tension? Maybe there is too much back story? Maybe I did learn something from those voices? Something about my craft and what it takes to write a story that will compel a person to read late into the night and forgo their morning shower. And maybe, if I do it well, I can write the story inside-out, ass-backwards, use metaphor… and an occasional adverb?

Maybe.

And if all else fails…I’ll add a fairy.


Fun? Yeah, fun was had. But the better question was, “Did you grow?”

About the Author:  Delores Gonzales Montaño is a graduate of the University of California, San Diego, where she studied literature and writing. Although her first loves were children’s literature and horror, not an unlikely pair in her opinion, she is currently writing neither. Instead she finds herself neck-deep in a mainstream novel where the characters are neither animals nor monsters, at least not in the conventional interpretation. First place winner of the 2014 PPWC Writing Contest in the genre of Literary Fiction, she remains convinced that the prize is hers because no one else entered in that category. A native of Colorado, she often battles with the need for ocean.

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