Goal + Motivation + Conflict =…

July 25, 2012

In going over what I learned at the workshop in Kansas, I keep coming back to something that I heard about on a Storywonk podcase – Goal, Motivation, and Conflict. It’s a good concept about how to make your narrative craft better, and I think that’s where I need to be focusing some of my attention in what’s left of this summer, possibly in connection with Camp Nanowrimo August. But I’m also not sure where to go or what to do to hone that aspect of my craft.

I’ve done a Google search on those terms, and found a bunch of interesting stuff, but unfortunately a lot of it seems to be pretty superficial – defining the terms, going into a few details about how to use them, but stopping at a screenful of information – which is about the right level of info to absorb in a blog post, but most of these places all have just about the same screenful, which is frustrating when I want to dig deeper. For the record:

  • Goal – what your character needs to have, concretely.
  • Motivation – why he needs it, on a more personal level.
  • Conflict – who or what prevents him from getting it. (Or her.)

Have you heard of these terms? Can you suggest a course that I can take, or a website where I can really delve into the mysteries of GMC, preferably with exercises and worksheets and lots of crunchy examples? 😉

I’m giving up (some) Calories for Lent

February 21, 2012

It’s Pancake Tuesday today. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make it to a pancake dinner with my brother and his friends, because of a prior commitment to a special evening write-in with my Hamilton Nanowrimo friends.

But I’ve been thinking about Lent today. I grew up in an Anglican tradition, and part of that was the notion of choosing something to give up for Lent – a minor vice or indulgence, that you thought you could do without for forty days, (not counting Sundays,) and improve your moral fiber for it.

It’s been a long time since went to church services for anything in the Easter season, or gave something up for rent. Several years back I put several specific categories of treats on the ‘not for Lent’ list as part of an effort to lose weight and eat healthier – pringles, ice cream, and something else I think. (Not chocolate – you’ll get my Cadbury cream  eggs when you pull them in warm chocolatey pieces from my hands, or something like that.)

I’m proud of how much weight I managed to lose a few years back, but I’ve been thinking that I want to get a bit slimmer, and stop the backsliding into eating more junk food. I’ve been mostly maintaining my weight lately, and maybe putting on the odd pound every other month or something.

So, rather than anything specific, I’m going to give up extra Calories for Lent. Back when I was still committed to eating right and losing weight, I was budgeting myself 2500 Calories a day, with perhaps a bit extra for days when I went above and beyond on exercising. Lately, I don’t beat myself up if I stay under three thousand, as long as I’m walking at least thirty minutes.

But as you are all my witnesses, I’m going to try and change that. For the forty days of Lent, I’ll do my best to stick to 2500 Calories or under, no matter how much I exercise – AND keep up the daily exercise as much as I can. On Sundays, I’ll splurge a little and indulge those extra few hundred.

Don’t let me give up, blog followers. I’ll do better if I know I have to come back on here and report how I do.

And let me know if you’re giving up anything for Lent – or doing something special to commemorate the season.

My much-belated snooper description.

March 30, 2011

So, I’m finally written something based on the ‘Super-snooper’ prompt – I can’t even pretend it’s for the blogfest anymore, but hopefully you’ll have fun playing along anyway.

First, here were the instructions:

Describe a setting that tells us something about your character’s personality. Characters can be of any age, living in any time or place. But don’t tell us about the character, tell us about his or her stuff. We’ll get to know the character from what you write.


The room is fairly high in the castle tower, with five large windows, three facing to the north and two towards the east. There is a large canopy bed in the corner opposite the windows, with purple blankets and sheets spread across it and blue trim on the canopy. The bed has been made, but still manages to seem somewhat askew.

On the north wall sits a heavy oak desk, expertly crafted. At the front of the desk there’s a small pile consisting of four ballpoint pens, (each with a different color of ink,) two wooden pencils, and a well-used lump of white rubber. In the back left corner, several heavy books are piled – going up from the bottom, we find the following titles: ‘An Apprentice’s Guide to Magikal Spell Notation,’ ‘A history of the seven families from the year 200F.R,’ ‘Advanced topics in geometry,’ ‘Intermediate geography and geology of the North American Continent’, ‘Pirate Peter and the Spanish Secret’, ‘Pirate Peter and the island of the Lost Girls,’ and a small pamphlet, ‘How to take care of your pet ferret.’

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The socks left behind

March 4, 2011

This was from a prompt writing exercise at the Hamilton Writer’s group (Chester’s beers of the world,) over a year ago. As always, feedback greatly appreciated.

There’s a wormhole that opens up in the top drawer of the dresser and swallows socks. Nobody knows where it leads, but any sock that goes through that hole in the space-time continuum is never seen or heard from again.

Everybody in the whole dresser knows about it, and even the dress shirts and pants that get put on plastic hangers in the closet have heard the stories as they go through the laundry. New socks, fresh from the store, shake when they first find out, and hope that they’ll be left in the laundry basket after they’re washed and dried, just so that they don’t have to get put away in the top drawer.

But I’m not afraid of the top drawer. That wormhole has already taken everything it can from me. It’s not going to take what’s left of me.

I’m a gray dress sock with black horizontal stripes, and I’ve lived in the top drawer of that dresser for three years.

Sometimes I do dwell on the wormhole, concocting overly elaborate plans to track a fresh white tube sock as it gets sucked away, to find out what’s on the other end, or to implode the wormhole permanently. But I know that that’s all melodramatic nonsense. I’m a sock for god’s sake, and a lone sock at that. There’s nothing I can do against forces of that kind.

Lately, I’m often the one who tells the facts of life in the top drawer to the new purchases. The white briefs snicker as the story is retold – they know that they’re untouchable, although some of them have seen dozens of innocent socks get snatched.

Occasionally a fresh sock, a deep navy blue one perhaps, will ask if there’s any way for a sock to be safe. I know the answer to that, and I’m honest enough to tell them, although that’s the answer that breaks my heart.

“The vortex will never suck away a sock once its mate has already been taken, kid,” I tell them. “What do you think about that?”


Brian Henry exercise number three – Cup of tea assignment

February 4, 2011

Okay, I’ve got one more bit of writing from the Oakville Brian Henry plotting workshop to share today – the assignment was to write something about characters coming to a decision while doing something mundane – such as preparing and drinking a cup of tea. I went in a slightly different direction for it. Please, let me know your thoughts, I love getting feedback on little snippets of writing like this!


The file organizer box sitting next to the videotape shelves was the logical place to start.

Of course, it wasn’t as if the shelves held videotapes anymore. Who had videotapes these days? VCRs have finally gone the way of the eight-track player. So there was a remarkable assortment of burned optical disks, paperback books, USB cables, DVD box sets, and scrap paper on those shelves. There might even be some receipts on those shelves, and I’d need to look through those if it came to that. But the file organizer box was first.

I sat down in the armchair and opened up the box on my lap. Twenty different labelled pockets, all stuffed full of receipts. So much for the paperless economy, huh? Credit card receipts, utility receipts, bank receipts, miscellaneous receipts that defied description, and… there it was. Investment receipts.

Investment receipts showing ninety thousand dollars that I’d sent to the fund people. Day before yesterday, it had probably been worth a hundred grand. Today? Who the hell knew.

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Another Brian Henry exercise to share.

January 28, 2011

Well, I figured that again, I’d share one of the little passages that I wrote at the Brian Henry workshop last Saturday, which was really fun, especially his slightly tweaked version of the Snowflake method.

I’m not sure if looking at an exercise like this is really the best way of judging what I’ve learned at a workshop, by the way, but they’re fun to write, and probably show a bit about how I was thinking about the workshop topic. For this one, in the morning, we were talking about how to structure short stories, and how they can grow up around a very small seed or prompt. This was based on a prompt that somebody called out, which was: “By the time I got to ______, the turtle wasn’t there anymore!”


“Purpose of the trip?”

I was taken by surprise at the fact that they actually asked the question outside of tv shows and movies. Maybe I shouldn’t have been, after all, they have to get cliches like that from somewhere. But it wasn’t like I was used to dealing with customs and immigration officials. Heck, I could still count the number of times I’d left Massachussets on the fingers of one hand.

“Umm, well, I’m looking for a – that is to say, business. Or education, more than anything else – or educational business. It’s a student field research trip.”

The uniformed official considered this. “So you’re being sponsored by an American university?”

“Yes.” I dove into my carryon looking for something official with the Harvard letterhead on it, until I was waved down, a gesture that I took to mean that I shouldn’t bother. “Is there a local school that you’ll be working with?”

“I… I’m not sure,” I said. “A local zoologist, at least – Doctor Hector Guerras. I think that he’s with the Institute of Reptile research in Daracas, not an instructor at a school.”

“Very good. Is the Institute arranging for your lodging?”

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A short dialog exercise.

January 21, 2011

I went to a Brian Henry workshop on Dialog last weekend, and I’ll be seeing him again tomorrow for a workshop on Plotting a story. Last Saturday was a great experience, despite the somewhat trying weather – there was just a small group of us at the Saint Catharine’s library, and I learned a lot of useful tips, as well as being able to talk with some other aspiring writers.

Since sharing the ‘Devin’ short story went over well last week, I think I’ll post the dialog writing exercise that I typed out on the Alphasmart Dana for that workshop. Again, this is copyright Chris Kelworth, and I’d love to hear your opinions on it:


“Okay, come on, give me the details.” My brother Derek pulled out his android phone and sat down on the couch, ready to thumb-type, with the corners of his nose wrinkling slightly.

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