Last weekend I attended the Christian Writer’s Renewal Conference in
Seattle. Keynote speaker Dennis “Doc” Hensley inspired us with his
talk on the Power of Words; agents and editors offered advise and
listened to writers pitch ideas; teachers dispensed wisdom; and Clint
Kelly gave away books. It was a magnificent time to chat with other
writers, listen to professionals, and generally make a nuisance of
myself by following my favorite people around the building so I
wouldn’t miss anything they said. Over the next several posts, I’ll
dispense a little of the information I soaked up and try to convince
all you writer-types out there to attend a writer’s conference if you
haven’t already done so.
In his keynote address, Doc Hensley said the English language contains over 616,000 words, and as authors, all we have to do is string them together in the proper order. “We are not creators of words,” Doc said, “we are re-arrangers of words.” He gave an animated reading of “The Jabberwocky” to illustrate is point that even nonsense words have the power to move the reader to great emotional heights. His amusing stories had the audience laughing so hard, it was difficult to take proper notes.
In his three-part class, Strategic Writing, Doc analyzed a short story
by Jack London (“War”) to see how he used object symbolism, irony, and flashback. When I first read the story, I hated it (tragic endings aren’t my thing), but after seeing Doc pick the story apart, I had to admit that it’s a work of art and I learned a ton from the experience. We also discussed the symbolic meaning of colors, numbers, and names (my favorite example was Perry Mason, who “parries” all the prosecutors offensive attacks and them builds his case, just as a mason builds a wall), and the Nine Basic Plot Points.
In my next post, I’ll share the five items Doc Hensley said should
come at the beginning of every story.