Tuesday, March 22, 2016

One of the Best Ways to Learn About Writing

by Eva Marie Everson @EvaMarieEverson

One of the Best Ways to Learn About Writing
I’m often asked what book or workshop or set of studies I dove into in order to learn how to write fiction.

The answer is simple: none.

Oh, granted, I’ve read books and attended workshops and spent hours studying … but that’s not how I learned to write fiction.

Instead I taught myself by sitting in front of the television with a (then) VHS remote in one hand and a pen poised over a notebook in the other. I recorded television shows like Matlock and Murder, She Wrote (the plots are simple) as I watched them for the “first viewing.” Then, using the remote, I played the shows back, stopping at the end of each scene to write what plot points had occurred, what new characters had been introduced, what we knew about them, etc.

In the process, I noted a pattern.

I eventually graduated to movies—short ones, long ones, it didn’t much matter—and shows like BBC’s Midsomer Murders, which has some of the best plotting I’ve ever seen.

Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference
Several years ago Alton Gansky—then the director of Blue Ridge Mountains ChristianWriters Conferenceasked me to teach a fiction practicum—hours upon hours of delving into the art of writing fiction. I decided I’d go back to my roots, teaching the way I’d taught myself. Of course, adding in what I’d learned along the way.

The results were more than I could have hoped they’d be. The following year, I repeated the on-going class, which I’d limited to ten, and had a waiting list besides.

Year after year (and they’ve not been that many) I’ve offered the class using a movie to teach the art and, year after year, I’ve had a waiting list.

Bottom line is—the method works. More fun in a group, of course, but that doesn’t mean you can’t “try this at home.”

Grab your remote and favorite DVD.
Grab a favorite DVD or go to YouTube.com, etc. First, watch the movie. Then write down the names of the main characters. Now, watch the film scene by scene. Ask yourself: Why did the character do that? What motivated them? How has the plot changed because of their actions? Etc.

Or, if you can, join me for the Fiction Practicum at Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. I limit the attendance to ten and, yes, we do have a few spots available. Here’s what you can expect me to cover:
  • The First Three Things to Consider
  • Internal and External Conflicts
  • Character Arcs
  • The Seven “Issues”
  • Time Lines
  • Dialogue
  • Title Pages, Hooks, & “The Four Questions” (No, this is not an introduction to Passover.)
Get your red pens ready because we’re also going to work on your manuscript. You must sign up in advance, and bring ten copies of your first 1,000 words, as well as one page that is heavy with dialogue. Be ready to discuss concept to completion ideas, titles, and possible avenues for publication. Hands on, loads of fun, and chocolate is involved.

To join us, contact me by email: PenNhnd@aol.com. I’d enjoy seeing you there!

One of the best ways to learn about writing - @EvaMarieEverson (Click to Tweet)

The point of the #writing practicum - @EvaMarieEverson (Click to Tweet)

Eva Marie is a multiple award-winning author and speaker. She is one of the original five Orlando Word Weavers critique group members, an international and national group made up of critique chapters. She served as the original president from 2000 to 2007 and is now president of Word Weavers International, Inc. Eva Marie served as a mentor for Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild for several years and has taught at a number of writers conferences nationwide. During the 2010-2011 school year, Eva Marie served as an adjunct professor at Taylor University in Upland, Indiana. She describes it as one of the best times she ever had while working. Eva Marie also serves as director of Florida Christian Writers Conference (along with Mark Hancock) and the Education Consultant for SON Studios.

She is both a past and current student at Andersonville Theological Seminary where she plans to receive her Masters in Old Testament Theology sometime before her ninetieth birthday. Eva Marie and her husband make their home in Central Florida where they are owned by one very spoiled dog, a funky chicken, and two hearts-full of grandchildren.

*Carol Award Winner for The Potluck Club
**ICRS Gold Medallion Finalist
***Multiple awards, including 2012 Inspirational Readers Choice Award & Maggie Award (Chasing Sunsets), 2013 Maggie Award & 2013 Christy finalist for Waiting for Sunrise, 2014 AWSA Golden Scroll Award (Slow Moon Rising), 2015 AWSA Golden Scroll Award (The Road to Testament)
****CBA Bestseller List several months running and a finalist for Retailers Choice Awards, 2013


  1. Eva, What a great way to learn. I will do this. I wish I could take your class. I don't think I am able to make BRMCWC this year. I will plan on next year with my son., Lord willing. Thanks for all you do for us. God bless you and the work of your hands.

  2. Great way to learn and fun.

  3. Your post brought me back to my youth and my own study habits of story through movies and TV. Mine was in regard to playwriting and stage performance. Directing a scene. Though it is not currently where my writing energies are focused, it is the lion-share of my writing and publishing via performance on the stage. Building story, characters, plot action and stringing all together for performance was learned by carefully watching those elements in other works. My husband says I'm miserable to watch a movie with because I am critiquing script, performance and directorial decisions along the way. LOL. But, that's the best way to learn the craft--study the work of masters in the craft. Every detail.
    Joy to you!

  4. I love this idea. I hope I can attend your class at BRMCWC this year. I just purchased my air line ticket and put down a deposit.

  5. I have contemplated doing this a million times. So glad to hear it works. I'm ready to dive in! Where's the popcorn?