October 3, 2012

A Thematic Approach to Science Fiction-Workshop Review

A guestpost by Katherine Hajer about the Writer Workshop "A Thematic Approach to Science Fiction". Twitter / Blog.

I’m fortunate enough to live in a city with a nigh-legendary science fiction bookshop (Bakka Phoenix), several great indie publishers, and a number of respected, well-established authors. When all three of these forces come together, it creates an event legitimately billed as A Very Cool Thing 

The plan is for these writing workshops to become a series, but the very first one featured Robert J. Sawyer (SFwriter.com). Seats were limited to about twenty attendees. 

The title of the workshop was “A Thematic Approach to Science Fiction”, and the point was that while good story-telling is fine as far as it goes, the stories that endure tend to have strong, profound thematic elements. This was not the sort of writing workshop where writers arrive with stories printed out and critique each other. Instead, Sawyer used a Socratic approach, asking the audience to provide example novels and then discussing what their themes. It became clear over the course of the three-hour workshop that stories with strong themes tended to be more memorable and more likely to provoke reader discussion. 

In the second half of the workshop, audience members pitched the theme of their current works-in-progress (scary but highly useful!) and received feedback from Sawyer. I do wish there was a way to keep track of all the writers in the room; it would be great to read the stories described in their finished forms.

The session wrapped up with a general Q&A about writing and publishing.

I don’t know if all of the workshops in the series will follow this exact format, but based on my experience with this one, I will definitely be checking for future sessions. If you write science fiction and have an opportunity to hear Robert J. Sawyer speak about writing, you should go.

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