Books, news, & views from Karen Traviss

What every writing course should teach

It's not about writing, it's about storytelling. And storytelling is about people.
I had the pleasure of meeting acting coach Ed Hooks at Animex earlier this year. He was giving talks on how animators can use acting techniques to create believable characters; I was doing talks on embedding story in games. Ed is a treasure trove of insight and great fun to talk with, but calling him an acting coach (or an actor, or author, or teacher) doesn't quite do him justice, nor does "acting for animators" sum up what he can teach you.

I'd call him a story man. He understands how good stories are told and why we tell them. Astonishingly, he shares these insights for free in a newsletter. If you're wondering whether you can launch a glittering literary career by shelling out a small fortune for a writing course or embarking on a creative writing degree, save yourself some time and money and take a look at Ed's web site first. And sign up for his newsletter.

Storytelling is about people and how they behave in challenging situations. It doesn't matter if those people are aliens, animals, or talking trees, either, as long as we can relate to them in some way. The basics of how to tell good stories are very simple, but like all simple things -- stop smoking, go on a diet, whatever -- actually doing them, and doing them successfully, is a lot harder. This newsletter (the July one, if you come to this link later in the year) tells you pretty well all you need to know to be a writer, or any other kind of storyteller for that matter.

Writing is simply an output format for a story, just as animation, comics, radio drama, or movies are. Without a grasp of story, you're just stringing words in a row, which might look pretty on first inspection but that'll never quite make it as a great novel. And good stories are about people: not ideas, not language, not 3D CGI, not disconnected action set-pieces. People.