Thursday, August 20, 2009

Notes From The Conference - Holly Black

I still have tons of SCBWI conference notes I want to share with you guys. One of the speakers I was most looking forward to seeing was Holly Black. I adore her books, both her younger Spiderwick books and her older, YA books such as Tithe, Valiant, and Ironside.

She did not disappoint. She gave a great talk, one that really resonated with me. Again, she did a great job of showing us how her childhood shaped the writer she is, with stories of living in a dilapidated, crumbling Victorian, with a mother who, when Holly asked if vampires or werewolves would get her, answered, "Probably not." I loved that. Holly's mother also warned her not to astral project because it would leave her body empty for too long and who knew who might take possession of it. Seriously, is it any wonder this woman writes fantasy??

Some highlights from her talk:

All writing is in conversation with what came before; we all build on each other.

We don't want to reinvent the wheel, want to build a whole new wheel.

Kid's books are a genre-less genre; we can write about anything we want

Literature lets s put on the mask of being someone else.

Fantasy actualizes metaphor. In fantasy we can talk about human emotions in a different way, blameless

However we do have to watch our metaphors because they do have such power.

Numinous - makes one tremble with awe, and fascinating

Horror = an essential wrongness with the world

"All novels are fantasy; some are just more honest about it." Gene Wolf

"Without the supernatural and divine, something is missing." Gene Wolf

(That last one seems to totally encapsulate my writing experience.)

Closed fantasy - the magic is hidden
Open fantasy - the magic is well-known and an acknowledged part of the world.

Day logic and night logic
Day logic - rules are spelled out, acts almost like science
Night logic - more intuitive and less reliable outcomes

Plots in fantasy have a slightly different structure than realistic fiction. (This is worth it's weight in gold, for anyone who writes fantasy. It's something I've done intuitively, but never had anyone acknowledge in terms of plotting before. Very cool.)

In fantasy, there are two stories in addition to the emotional journey.
There is the fantastical plot (dragons attacking the kingdom)
And there is the human plot (king's wife having an affair with his brother)
It is the interaction between those two plots that drive the story; the way they interact creates the resonance.

Isn't she brilliant?? (And she's also gorgeous!)


Katy Cooper said...

"There is the fantastical plot (dragons attacking the kingdom)
"And there is the human plot (king's wife having an affair with his brother"

This is the kind of thing that A) brings me back again and again; and B) makes me tell people, 'If you're not reading Robin's blog, you should be.'

I really needed this, really needed it right now.

Story Weaver said...

She sounds like one of the lucky few who have interesting childhoods. *sigh*

Robin L said...

Well, thank you Katy. But I really can't take the credit for this. It was Holly...

And Story Weaver, we ALL have interesting childhoods. It's just that our own is so familiar to us, it doesn't feel interesting when compared to others', don't you think?

Erica said...

i met holly black last month in chicago at ALA. she is sooooo nice and super cool! :)

also met neil gaiman *purrrr* ;)

Story Weaver said...