Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Writing Workshops & Writer Renewal

By Morgan Tarpley Smith
With our writing we all have hang-ups or road blocks from unexpected life happenings, jobs, families, and just the business of life – and as writers I feel we can all use renewal with our writing to remind us of our spark for that certain story project or just our passion for writing in general.
My ACFW-Louisiana chapter held our second annual writer’s workshop this past weekend, and I’m feeling seriously refreshed. The workshop was filled with such practical information for writers at any stage in their journey that I’d like to share some of the highlights with you.
The workshop was led by the petite fireball of a lady named DiAnn Mills, who just so happens to be a bestselling and award-winning author. She engaged our minds and hearts through her sessions and wit. Her sessions focused on characterization, plot, backstory, emotions, and more. She’s also written a book on writing called “The Dance of Character and Plot.” You can check it out here.
Here are some of my favorite tidbits from her sessions:
-Think about your favorite book or movie. It usually goes back to the characters. Now with our books we have to give our reader an adventure like they are those characters not like they are only reading about them.
-Remember what Helen Keller said about character—“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired and success achieved.”
-Your story has to entertain and inspire the reader to be a better person and encourage the reader that no matter what they face there is a positive solution.
-Man was created with three distinct needs: relationships, significance and security. When man decides to try to fill those places with something other than God that’s where flaws come in. Even in our writing this is how to flaw your characters. Even if you’re not writing a Christian novel you can still have morals. Whether a protagonist or antagonist, the character must have at least a moral code that guides them.
-James Scott Bell says, “Every character faces a kind of death.” Some of these “deaths” are physical or occupational but they are always psychological.
-Character motivation is the match that lights the flame of your novel.
-Heroes are not victims. They may have been victims in the past, but they are not anymore.
-Avoid character flaws in the first 50 pages or so because we want readers to fall in love with our character.
Bestselling author DiAnn Mills
-Everything your character does to get out of trouble should only make it worse. This is the key to any novel if you want to show growth or change in a character.
-All novels need stress, tension and conflict. It has to look like our protagonist will fail.
-Story always trumps structure.
-A setting has to be antagonistic (Ex: a co-worker you don’t like creates a hostile work environment for you)
-Put your character in the worst situations possible (at that point). Keep writing things down until you get past your first ideas.
-Your character has to face the consequences of their decisions/choices. What if you have your character choose between two wrongs instead of two rights.
-Emotive conflict is when you want something but also want something else. (Ex: I love living in the country, but I also want Starbucks.) Emotions should be constantly at war or conflict with each other. Our character’s reactions to the world around them is emotive conflict.
-The seven universal emotions are surprise, fear, sadness, disgust, happiness and contempt. Make sure your characters experience all of them.
-Whose POV should be used in a scene? The character who has the most to lose.
Do you have some gems of advice from writing conferences and workshop to share? Please do! And best of luck to everyone on their writing journeys!
Morgan Tarpley Smith

Morgan Tarpley Smith is an award-winning newspaper reporter and photographer in Louisiana. She is also an inspirational novelist. Besides writing and traveling to over a dozen countries, her interests include acting in her local theater, genealogy, photography, and singing. She resides in Louisiana with her husband. For more information about Morgan, connect with her on FacebookTwitterPinterest, or Goodreads.


  1. Morgan, it's wonderful that your Chapter gets together and enables such a strong learning environment for you all.

    Thank you for sharing some great tips.

  2. Great tips! I especially like the one about how our characters should experience each of the universal emotions. That's new ... now I'll have to work out how to apply it. Thanks for sharing!

  3. It was a very informative workshop. Thanks to DiAnn Mills and Winnie Griggs for teaching.

  4. Thank you all for your comments! The workshop was great! I'm glad you could take away a few tips too!