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Show Don’t Tell workshop: A writer’s review

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A horse crossing the road might not seem like an interesting topic, but to a room filled with the Silver Leos Writing Guild, it’s a gold mine.

The second annual Show Don’t Tell – Character Development workshop, held at Texas A&M University – Commerce Alumni Center, gave writers a unique opportunity to collaborate and develop skills with local published author Michael Johnson and A&M – Commerce professor Jim Anderson. Silver Leos Writing Guild President Vivian Freeman was hopeful that the event would be a success.

“Were hoping people can figure out what they need to do to pep up their stories,” she said. “We have people who write from one extreme to the other, from childrens’ books to mysteries. We’re hoping everyone can take out a little piece that can fit with themselves.”

Thirty plus Silver Leos and other attendees packed the Alumni Center to participate in the workshop.

Jim Anderson, an American College Theatre award winner, had participants focus on five key elements of story telling: plot, character, diction, music and spectacle.

Anderson encouraged writers to develop their stories in the order of plot to spectacle, and for playwrights to work backwards from spectacle to plot. The propper use of these elements, he said, creates deep characters the audience can believe in.

Anderson also addressed the character arc, how characters change through the story. The arc, Anderson said, can be as subtle as a change in the way a character talks to a complete change of direction in their life.

The playwright concluded by encouraging participants to take time to write something everyday, citing it as a crucial step to becoming a great writer.

Guest speaker Michael Johnson, an award winning author and cattle roping champion, spoke at length on how to indentify teachers and coaches who can help develop a writer’s skill. There are two kinds of teachers, Johnson said, seekers and experts. Seekers are andragogical teachers, individuals who ask questions rather than give advice. Seekers don’t instruct or give much praise, but are the best teachers, according to Johnson. Experts, Johnson said, are to be avoided at any cost. Experts are individuals who love to tell and show students exactly how to do something.

“Experts think they are the fount of all knowledge,” Johnson said. “They think the student is a blank slate. They don’t care what you know already, they only care about what they can teach you.”

Johnson encouraged writers to be seekers, and to go over the top with their characters. Humor is also critical to being a strong writer, he said. Johnson referred to examples of humor in his novel, “Healing Shine,” demonstrating its usefulness as a tool to get through tough times. Johnson left attendees with parting advice similar to Jim Anderson’s: write daily, even if you have no desire to do so. Soon, he said, you’ll become very jealous of the time you set aside to write.

The Silver Leos Writing Guild meets every Wednesday in Commerce. Writers seeking a friendly active group of fellow writers are encouraged to contact Guild President Vivian Freeman at 903- 886-8953.

The Silver Leos are hosting another summer workshop, Conquering the Comma, on June 13. Interested persons are asked to contact Dr. Fred Tarpley at 903- 886-6498.




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