Workshop Descriptions

The Art of Developing Great Conflict

  • Available as online or in-person workshop

Conflict … the foundation of great fiction. Models abound: Goal, Motivation, & Conflict (Debra Dixon). Goal, Conflict, & Disaster (Dwight Swain). Three levels of Conflict (Robert McKee). Not to mention inner conflict and outer conflict and story conflict. We all know what it is. Still, the rejections come with notes to the effect of “the conflict between the characters just isn’t strong enough” or “the characters don/t struggle enough” or “the conflict isn’t believable.” This workshop focuses on how to build believable conflict, how to test a character’s behavior in the midst of conflict, and how to keep the tension escalating to the story climax.  .

Dialog Workshop

  • Available as an online or in-person workshop

Let Your Characters do the Talking

The verbal exchanges between characters is usually where a story comes alive. Great dialog infuses characters with life as little else does. Poor dialog reduces them to caricatures. As with other aspects of writing, there’s a craft to dialog that can be learned and can take talent to the next level.

This workshop is highly interactive with time provided for new skills to be put to work.

M&Ms for Characters: Milieu and Motivation

  •  Available as online or in-person workshop.

Most of the fiction writers I know have several books on character development that espouse all sorts of advice.

Most of that advice boils down to making sure character development includes two things: milieu and motivation. In a word, M&Ms. Of all the techniques to build well-rounded characters, these two provide the necessary fodder to create unforgettable characters.

Milieu is that wonderful French word that encompasses all aspects of a setting—the physical, social, and cultural. In this workshop, we look at this from the perspective of your protagonist’s history, comfort, and emotional connection.

Motivation, as all writers know, is key to having your characters move through a story in a way that feels natural and organic. Motivation includes the big “why” that drives the story question and the little “why” that focuses on what he wants in this scene right now.

Of all the techniques to build well-rounded characters, these two provide the necessary fodder to create unforgettable characters.

Mythic Structure and Storytelling

  • Available as an in-person 1/2 day (4 hours) workshop

Myths are both a link to the past that explain how and why events happened and an inspiration for writers and storytellers. The more writers understand the psychological power of myth and its associated archetypes, the more they can use these tools to create interesting, compelling, and original stories.

Since the work of Joseph Campbell on the hero’s journey and the subsequent publication of The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler, most writers have become familiar with mythic structure. I believe there is a direct link between popular fiction and mythic structure. I also believe the more consciously writers understand this, the better their chances of writing fiction that is compelling and memorable, not to mention, likely to be published.

This is an experiential workshop that includes writing exercises and participation with the goal of making the material as relevant and accessible as possible. The outline is to be firm enough to provide concrete, valuable material and loose enough to fit the emphasis required for workshop participants (such as more fantasy or horror examples if the audience is primarily writers of that genre or more mystery examples of the audience is primarily mystery writers).


Novel Writing 101

  • Available as an all day (6 hour) workshop
  • Offered by Sharon once a year as a 4-month long online class

This course draws heavily upon 4 sources: Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight Swain, the Workbook for Writing Breakout Fiction by Donald Maass, GMC: Goal, Motivation, and Conflict by Debra Dixon, and the “Craft Basics” column that I wrote for the Rocky Mountain Writer for 4 years.

The items covered include the following:

    • Conflict – without it, there’s no story
    • Point of View – whose story is this?
    • Plot driven or character driven
    • Character Development
    • Scenes and Sequels
    • Dialogue and Narrative
    • Setting and World Building
    • Just write and keep writing until it becomes second nature
    • Know Thy Audience
    • Audience expectations or “why would a reader like your book?”
      • Genre or the Great American Novel
      • Story-telling structures and making them work for you
      • Full manuscripts and tools of the trade (proposals, pitches) – when to get serious about marketing your work.
      • Just write and keep writing, and have faith you’re getting better
    • Priming the Pump
      • Read widely
      • Study craft
      • Honor your process
      • Pros and cons of critique groups
      • Nurture your muse
      • Avoid comparing your craft and your career to other writers
      • Just write and keep writing, because that’s what writers do

Plotting Strategy: Put Your Characters in the Driver’s Seat

  • Available as an online or in-person workshop
  • Available as a non-genre or romance-specific workshop

Character motivations, not events, drive most plots of popular fiction no matter how plot (event) driven a story may seem.  This workshop includes the following:

  • Finding the relationship among events, plot, and characters
  • Getting to know characters
  • Jumping into the conflict
  • Figuring out narrative focus
  • Putting it all in scenes
  • Adding emotion and stirring well
  • Making characters active and reactive

Sharpening the Saw

  • Available as an in-person workshop

The title of this workshop is borrowed from Stephen Covey’s 7th habit in his acclaimed Seven Habits of Highly Successful People. This is a workshop on the principles of self-renewal. This workshop is geared toward writers who have been writing for several years and who are seeking a way to feel satisfaction and joy in the process (they way they did when they first started writing.

This workshop draws heavily upon the following sources: Writing from the Inside Out by Dennis Palumbo, The Right to Write by Julia Cameron, Freeing Your Creativity by Marshall J. Cook, The War of Art by Steve Pressfield, and Your Writing Coach by Jurgen Wolff.  I promise this will be an uplifting and fun hour and (hopefully) reinvigorates those who attend.

The “I hate to write a synopsis!” Workshop

  • Available as online or in-person workshop
  • In person workshop is a half-day (3-4 hour) class

Sure some people like to write a synopsis. For most writers, the task is about as appealing as jumping into a frozen lake during sub-zero weather–even though some people like that, too.This workshop helps participants identify the elements required to put together a solid synopsis. Workshop participants leave with a workbook that provides concrete reminders of the steps and the techniques.In addition to discussing different types of synopses and synopsis conventions, the workshop covers techniques to deconstruct your story so you can construct an effective, clear synopsis.

Weather Warning! Brainstorms Ahead

  •  Available as online or in-person workshop.

Tools for Effective Fun Creative Brainstorming Play

Do your characters seem like the same old same old that you’ve thought of before? Are the situations you’ve put those characters in the same ones you’ve read a hundred times before? If you answered yes to either of those questions, this is the workshop for you. This is a fun, highly interactive workshop designed to recharge your creative batteries … and give you some useful techniques in doing the same for yourself when you’re all alone. This goes from the silly to the real purpose of brainstorming – generate useful, workable ideas for your next book.

The purpose of over-the-top brainstorming is to develop ideas that you can use to get a plot unstuck, create more interesting, unique characters, and recharge your muse. This workshop is play with a purpose.

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One comment on “Workshop Descriptions

  1. Sharon,
    I have just taken a course with Margie Lawson. It was great and I have learned so much. The unfortunate part was that work got in the way of the course. Sleep got in the way of the course–okay, maybe the course got in the way of sleep and that caused a few too many of my cards to fall….
    Margie’s course included a lecture every MWF, an assignment or two accompanying the lecture, and partner editing. Not an over extensive amount of work, but at this point in my life, too much of an overload, and I didn’t want to let my editing partners down. What kind of time commitment can count on in your “conflict” course?