What I Learned From Robin Black

Robin Black’s workshop for Lighthouse Writers had 30 attendees, a group so large that the event had to be held in a neighboring building’s conference room instead of the Lighthouse headquarters.  Robin talked about The Quality of Mattering in Fiction which is to say that she started off using that topic as a guide for discussion – a discussion that rapidly turned into talking about whatever the attendees wanted to know, which was a wonderful mish-mash.

Based on the notes I took, here are some of the things Robin said that impressed me:       *  If you are a writer, you must ask yourself three questions:  1.  what is the story about? what happens?  2.  What is the story really about?  this gets to the relationship level, makes it personal  3.  No, but really what is the story about?  does it concern self discovery, the capacity to grow, show how we are similar to each other; in other words, what is the ‘take away?’                                                                                                                     * what you write is an exchange, a gift, between author & reader; it is a social interaction, a diagloge with the reader                                                                                         * the big difference between fiction and memoir is that the latter evokes a particular resistance on the part of the reader because the writer is talking about him/herself and what should the reader care?    General rule of thumb:  the more sympathy a memoir asks for, the less it elicits.                                                                                                             * authorless fiction such as myths, fairy tales, religious texts, etc, exist for a purpose-that is, to tell us how to live our lives, and they express shared psychological emphasis.  These stories often are the basis for stories we tell each other.                                                   * Employ ‘signposts of universality’ – that is, make the title tell a little about the story; use reference to major belief, something bigger; have a clear beginning; use a strong voice of authority for easier connection to the reader; symbolic scheme uses dream analysis, symbols, etc.;  keep in mind the ‘haunted’ aspect of the story.                                 * A strong unconscious comes through in every story – it is what helps make the connection between writer & reader;  the story must have implications; the writer must reach for great things and help us see things in a new way.                                                     * For a writer, everything you do must be in service to the story; revise, rewrite, etc.

Three hours was just not long enough.




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