“The Essential Wound” and other delights

I promised you a recap of “Weekend on the Water,” the fabulous 3-day retreat sponsored by SCBWI WWA, so here’s the scoop:

We arrived at the beautiful Resort at Port Ludow on Friday afternoon and had a bit of time to wander the gorgeous grounds and check into our rooms before our first session with our fearless leaders, editor Jordan Brown of Walden Pond Press and Balzar and Bray, and Anne Ursu, the bestselling author of BREADCRUMBS. They talked in general about revision, emphasizing the importance of character and of getting to the end of a first draft before you begin to revise.

But it was in their second session on Saturday that they really got to the meaty stuff. Anne shared author Frannie Billingsley‘s genius thoughts about the “essential wound,” the idea that your main character has been wounded in her formative years and that the consequences of this wound – the character’s controlling beliefs – are what creates your story. Anne gave us some great questions to think about, such as “What single belief rules your character’s life?” and “What primary emotion has sprung from that belief?”

These ideas were huge “aha”s for me. I was finally able to identify how Joan, the character of my current WIP had been wounded and how the shame she carries from that wound drives her behavior in the novel. As I go back and revise, I know that this understanding will help me shape and focus my book.

The retreat wasn’t all work, though. We had great meals, a KidLit Drink night complete with a bonfire and s’mores, and morning walks to work out the sitting-all-day kinks. There was plenty of free time for writing, peer critiques, and connecting with friends.

Attending the retreat was a financial stretch for me, but I’m really glad I decided to take the plunge. “The wound” was worth the price of admission.

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8 Responses to ““The Essential Wound” and other delights”

  1. Nice post, Helen! Their messages and encouragement were great, and I find myself mulling over a lot of what we covered. It was a good balance between work and fun. Great to see you too!

    • Helen says:

      Yes, I’m still processing all that I learned that weekend. It was a great experience, and I’m glad we got to spend some time together. Thanks so much for driving!

    • Helen says:

      I’m glad it was helpful, Molly. I wish you could have been there, too!

  2. Molly H says:

    This is wonderful! It really helps me with a revision I am working on right now. Wish I could have been there!

  3. M Hunt says:

    An excellent piece of advice – and important to consider for the secondary characters as well, I believe. Thank you!

    • Helen says:

      Absolutely, secondary characters have their own wounds, too, though it’s more likely that the main character’s wound will drive the story. Thanks for chiming in!

  4. Helen,
    Thanks for sharing. This retreat was always on my “to do” list and I really would have loved to have gone this year. Loving my new home in Colorado, but haven’t found any local writers yet. Missing all my WWA people. Best wishes with the WIP. ^_^

    • Helen says:

      So nice to hear from you, Angelina! Yes, the retreat was awesome – I’m sorry you missed it. There MUST be writers in Colorado – I’m sure you’ll find them. Good luck with your WIP, as well.

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