What You Missed. . .

From the November issue of The Writer’s Life.

What You Missed... notes about our October speaker, by Mardie Schroeder

Our own Margaret Harmon conducted a charmingly fun evening of full audience participation with her “Literary Games” — that is, games designed to help us break through obstacles to our creativity and productivity as writers. The focus of our particular game was “Plotting to Succeed,” with Margaret reminding us that at the heart of literary plots are three basic conflicts: Man vs. Man; Man vs. Nature; or Man vs. Himself. To play Margaret’s game, we were to build a story around one of the following nine scenarios:

  1. A 10-year-old runs away from home.
  2. A 20-year-old quits college and leaves the US.
  3. A 30-year-old disappears, leaving spouse, kids, job, and friends.
  4. A 40-year-old decides to run for President of the United States.
  5. A 60-year-old starts a new business.
  6. A 22-year-old kills a best friend.
  7. A popular priest leaves his church.
  8. A clown never removes his makeup in public.
  9. An airline pilot refuses to drive a car.

We were then asked to describe our character in over-the-top, whatever-occurs-to-you details that would make the motive inevitable. With 10 minutes or so of silence, we all scribbled away. Then the hands went up as our intrepid authors offered to read their works. The result was that an astonishing variety of characters and story-lines were revealed.

But that’s not all. The next step was to bring in a helper character, as in “No one is an island.” And again, with 10 minutes of furious scribbling, we expanded our scenarios. The plots we created featured an abundance of mayhem and angst -- and quite a few laughs. Is there a new novel in the works? Only time will tell. (Visit www.margaretharmon.com)

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