I've been teaching a lot lately, which I enjoy. Helping writers write better fills me up, plus makes me a better writer myself. So I've been thinking about objective correlatives--symbols that underscore the theme--and keep encountering them in my daily life.
Just this past week I left phone messages for two friends, one from Portland, the other from Manhattan. Here's the outgoing message from the Portlander:
"Please leave your name, number and your favorite color or cookie."
Here's the New Yorker:
"Leave your name and number and I'll get back to you--if you're cute or rich."
And there, my friends, is a perfect demonstration of the difference between quirky-for-its-own-sake Portland versus nakedly ambitious New York.
Likewise, I stopped over at my friend Valli's the other day while she was trimming her tomato plants. She explained to me how you should cut away the vines that aren't producing buds so that the ones producing tomatoes can thrive. Cutting away the parts that aren't producing seemed to me a good metaphor for how to live.
Getting back to teaching, I'm excited to teach my story structure class online for the first time. I love this class. From what I've gathered, it's pretty unique among writing classes because most workshops focus on writers bringing in pages of prose. My problem with that is that there's no way of knowing whether that scene even belongs in the book. So I've created a system where students work on their outlines only, focusing on the overall story. Some writers resist outlining, but I think of it more like returning to the impulse to tell a story around a fire--just tell me a story, one that'll grab me and won't let go. If you can summarize your book the way you summarize a movie you've seen, imagine how much better it's going to be when you fill it in with beautiful prose.
The class is available here.