Tells what EWW was expected to accomplish
|Why the Workshop?
The big reason why I designed the Exploratory Writing Workshop was because I wanted to demonstrate both a freethinking and a structured approach to writing longer works. There is a chicken or the egg complex that consciously or unconsciously plagues a writer. In a nutshell it is the conflict between characters begetting the story or the story begetting characters. So for starters it is important that the writer be unconstrained by structure and have an opportunity to let stream of conscious, muse, or whatever you call the creative process, have its day in the sun.
Hence, the first six weeks are designed to accommodate three basic approaches to story telling. First is starting with interesting characters and getting them to tell the story. Second is having an idea for a story and getting characters to audition for the parts. Finally is a combination of both where characters and story feed off one another while the writer keeps a close eye on the developments. Common to all of these is writing vignettes that take prompts and lesson objectives to get things moving. These are analogous to sketches a portrait or landscape artist uses in preparation for a major work. At the end of six weeks the student has a better idea of who they are dealing with and where the story is headed. At this juncture it is time for phase 2 which is adding backbone with a structured outline.
What I have learned from teaching the workshop is that aspiring writers often just start pounding the keys to see where their fingers are going to lead. They have this inexplicable notion that great works are produced by authors simply spitting out words. This is an invitation to frustration. The “Pantzers” will tell you that this approach works fine but to my experience, without some method to the madness, this approach is very limited, making it all but impossible to accomplish a larger work.
SoCalScribe wrote a great newsletter editorial several years ago on the structure of a story. I'm providing the link below.
So I encourage students, if they don’t have a story to begin with to start with character development and see where that leads. If they have an idea for a story then audition some characters. Either approach leads to character development and unless they have one heck of an idea for a story line, it is the players who will make the manuscript..
Most of the time a student doesn’t have a very clear idea to begin with about either one. Telling them they need an outline at this point is like telling someone to push a noodle. So to start with the workshop uses a process of prompts and vignettes similar to contests designed at getting the class involved in the creative process. To begin with a vignette of between one thousand and three thousand words is manageable without a whole lot of structure. The prompts are designed to focus the student and get them to understand the basic components of good storytelling as they begin playing with the process.