"Through the work involved in ACT ZERO, I've become a believer in backstory. The going has been challenging--at first, I worried that I didn't have time to write anecdotes that may or may not come into the book. But then the effort paid in spades when I saw a significant opportunity (through one of those anecdotes) to deepen the inner conflict of the main character and allow for a link to the antagonist that I would never have imagined without this intense groundwork.
The Sympathetic Character Factors in the Hook, forced me to more closely examine my protagonist. She was/is a sympathetic character to me, but the assignment requires that I articulate and then give evidence that reflects sympathetic character traits. Again, that work resulted in a richer grab; this facet of the program has helped me create stronger main and supporting characters."
- Janet Zupan - Algonkian Novel Writing Courses and Program Reviews
"Learning and practicing the four levels of third person narrative POV had the biggest impact on my writing. The zoom lens effect of author POV/distant/close/first-close gives the narrative more depth and energy, allowing the reader to not only see what a character sees, but to get right inside their head and hear their inner thoughts--perhaps the ultimate show-don't-tell technique."
- Lois Gordon - Algonkian Novel Writing Courses and Program Reviews
"I had not expected that strengthening the depth of my characters' lives both past and present would so naturally work to form plot. Module 6-8 (6-Act) then created a visual image of my novel as a whole that helped me ensure I had the necessary elements for a publishable novel. I was also surprised how helpful Module 2 (Antagonist) was in developing strong plot line. By fleshing out an antagonist, and an in-depth backstory, the overall plot was transformed."
- Brittany Hughes - Algonkian Novel Writing Courses and Program Reviews
"The Algonkian course directs focus on specifics in each character's backstory, a technique that helped make the characters become more vivid, taking substantive form in my mind's eye. As a result, as I lay relaxing in a hot bath or driving to get groceries, scenes would pop into my mind which, while dictated by the constraints of story, were fully driven by character."
- Walter Thompson - Algonkian Novel Writing Courses and Program Reviews
"Sincerely, every module was very helpful. I could write a case for each one. Detailing the climax gave me a window in to how to seed foreshadowing throughout the novel. I love the way subtle foreshadowing is a gift for astute readers--I want to give that gift. Too often foreshadowing is heavy-handed or non-existent. If I didn't know exactly where I was headed (climax) then I wouldn't have the intimacy with the overall plotline necessary to plant these little gems."
- Sela Gaglia - Algonkian Novel Writing Courses and Program Reviews
"The Algonkian program has forced me to more carefully consider the vital details of the novel writing process as a whole. The emphasis on backstory and the development of theme, scene creation in the context of the six act plot structure, and of course, the module on the antagonist. The course has also helped me to be more aware of marketability."
- John Loving - Algonkian Novel Writing Courses and Program Reviews
"Algonkian's writing program modules have strengthened my novel. The most surprising was the section concerning the antagonist. I realized the character I'd identified as the antagonist was insufficiently dimensional. He was mostly off-stage, and questions pertaining to his actions and motivation revealed his lack of importance. I could have created content, but strangely enough, he was not a pivotal point. After second and third thoughts, I identified the true villain. Once I worked through the assignment, she became a fascinating creature intimately related to the theme.
Another assignment was to describe the history of a setting. I chose the novel's Texas ranch, which had been merely a literary device. After researching and considering this locale, I found it to have a rich component that added depth to the story. The discovery was thrilling."
- Chance Maree - Algonkian Novel Writing Courses and Program Reviews
Lois Gordon - Death at Iron House - Cozy Mystery
DEATH AT IRON HOUSE is about a group of writers at a conference set in Smugglers Notch, VA, where each takes on a different persona to play a murder mystery game. When a particularly unlikable literary agent turns up dead, the players regroup as three teams to try and solve a real crime. After all, as mystery writers they kill off people before breakfast -- they have a working knowledge of motive, means and opportunity, and they put these skills to work to find the killer before any more witnesses go missing. Since humour is my thing, the narrative tends to be both light-hearted and deadly serious. [ Interview ]
Brittany Hughes - Breaking Clay - Upmarket/Literary
The story goes (as told by my mother) that at a young age I picked up a book and began to read without prior instruction. The freedom and passion I have always felt when holding a book is the same felt when holding a pen and creating a world filled with people I can allow myself to believe exist somewhere. I consider myself fortunate to have been raised in the Pacific Northwest by parents who provided me with opportunities to succeed. However, this upbringing must have made me somewhat naive because while visiting my husband's family in Logan, West Virginia, I was astonished to discover the poverty in which much of America still lives. [ Interview ]
Robert Steedman - Madame of Wax - YA Horror
I recently finished WARM BODIES by Isaac Marion and AS THE WORLD DIES by Rhiannon Frater. Right now, I'm reading Stephen King's latest, JOYLAND. After that, I'm checking out THIS DARK ENDEAVOR by Kenneth Oppel. The two novels that still inspire me are Steinbeck's THE GRAPES OF WRATH and Bradbury's FAHRENHEIT 451. I read Steinbeck's classic while a freshman at college. It was then I realized the power of writing in exposing social injustice and being a voice for those that don't have one. My respect for Bradbury's FAHRENHEIT is immense. [ Interview ]
Sela Gaglia - Half The Sky - Upmarket/Literary
I've studied the business of publishing for quite some time. However, I'd failed to see the crucial markers necessary to make a work marketable. As a lover of lit I can see how some of the greats would never be published today. We can blame the industry, but from my view the industry is doing what it needs to do to stay afloat--readers drive the industry. Art for art's sake doesn't yield a commercial novel (though it has inherent value). Since my goal is to write a successful commercial novel, my biggest challenge has been to continually comb through what I think I know to make space to learn. [ Interview ]
John Loving - A Place Ain't No Crying - General Fiction
The Author Salon program has forced me to more carefully consider the details of the novel writing process. The emphasis on back story and development of the antagonist has been particularly helpful, as well as the emphasis on the development of theme and the six act concept of scene creation. The course has also helped me to be more aware of marketability. For instance, initially I had my story starting in Iraq. I believe, however, that people are now tired of war (except for WW II which seems to have eternal reader interest), so I'm changing the setting of the first chapter from Iraq to Virginia. [ Interview ]
Chance Maree - Dark Matter Tiding - Science Fiction
I consider myself a serious reader, and I interact online with readers whose analysis, insight and eloquent book reviews are often quite amazing. Being among bibliophiles is humbling and rewarding. However, they can be harsh on authors, especially those who enter social sites hawking their books with the same aggression and lack of awareness as telemarketers. Readers are savvy enough to know when an author contacts them only to sell a novel. With swarms of new writers out there, especially those who haven't read enough to know that their novel is not all that good or novel, readers are inundated with review requests that quickly lead to them swatting the authors away like annoying flies. [ Interview ]
Frances Hay - The Night Fogs - Science Fiction
Ever since I moved to Britain in the 1980s, to a house that still had a decaying air raid shelter in its garden, I have been haunted by the legacy of the blitz. I would look out across London at the dome of St Paul's Cathedral against the night sky and imagine it surrounded by clouds of smoke from nearby bombings. I've heard the war stories of acquaintances who lived through the war, including one whose house collapsed on her in the East End bombings. But, as a psychologist, I am inspired to write about psychological warfare and how ordinary psychologists would fight a war against an invisible enemy. [ Interview ]
Yarrow Bucans - With The Beat - Erotica
Relationships play such an important part in our lives, especially our romantic and sexual ones. This story needs to be told. I was inspired to write it because it is the story of a girl in an emotionally abusive relationship, but it is the relationship she needs to have in order to become herself. Every relationship prepares you for the next and oftentimes it is the most torturous relationships that cut us open and leave us ready to love ourselves and others more completely. The most important relationships in our lives shake us to our core and force us to face ourselves so that we may become ourselves. This is the story of that kind of love, obsession, and growth.
[ Interview ]
A. L. Torres - Scrapers - Speculative Fiction
In the past, I've focused so much on characters, how they look, what they like to do, and their goals without truly delving into the challenges that they must face. One module concerning "conflict in the novel" has already made the whole experience worth it. I'm not so naive to think that I would get published immediately after this program. It would be nice, but I'm realistic. I know that I have to put in the hard work and fight through the obstacles. What I do know the thought-provoking questions in the program help me tremendously as a new writer. [ Interview ]
Julie Chapman - Grid Riders - Science Fantasy
When I was younger, I dreamed about shapes. Sometimes they made patterns; sometimes they appeared up close. As a result, friends called me "Kaleidoscope Eyes." The dreams were so vivid and stayed in my mind long after I awoke. During that time, I remember feeling as if I were living in two different worlds simultaneously -- one seen, one unseen -- which was difficult. Since then, I've been fascinated with characters who are able to exist between worlds. My protagonist, Eden, is one of them. Even though the dreams provided an escape, they were obviously weird and made me feel different. [ Interview ]
Walter D. Thompson - While Angels Dream - Literary Thriller
I have taken numerous courses in story development, read multiple books on the topic. Once, a live one day seminar with David Gray in NYC proved to be seminal. A subsequent week-long workshop with Michael Neff of Algonkian put me firmly on the path. Still, even then I didn't know what I didn't know. Only time can reveal one's ignorance. In the fall of 2012 I found solid footing, this time in the form of a book on novel development by Donald Maass. Shortly thereafter, I coincidentally reconnected with Michael whose course outline included one of Maass's works. Now the onus of success is solidly and squarely on my shoulders. [ Interview ]
Ken Plumb - Lenexa Thirteen - General Suspense
Raised in the trailer park of a small Colorado town, my baby boomer life revolved around the fundamental Baptist church where my carpenter father was the pastor and my mother played the piano. An English teacher, she introduced me to the joys of reading. I escaped into: Shakespeare, Dickens, Swift, Carroll, Stevenson, Thoreau, Faulkner, Tolkien, Hemingway, Steinbeck, Twain and Fitzgerald. I memorized 3000 bible verses, 400 hymns and 300 poems. I became a Baptist pastor, read many psychology books and earned a PhD. I have sold thousands of copies of a pop psychology book, as well as a novel about clinical depression. One of my short stories was a national finalist in the Writer's Digest short fiction contest. [ Interview ]