I ran my first workshop last weekend at Imaginarium 2019 (the most awesome event in Louisville). Given that I am not a morning person, that I’d never run a workshop before, and that I stayed up late on Saturday night because (a) friends, (b) beer, and (c) Imaginarium entertainment, I thought it went pretty well!
My topic was Crafting Cross-Genre Fiction, which is something I love to do and love to talk about with other writers. I will say that I think in the future I would open up some audience participation early in the workshop, right after introducing myself. I think things really started to come alive when I asked people if they already had an idea or a work in progress that blended genres, and I wish I had opened with that instead of giving my talk right off the bat (particularly given how well I speak in the morning.) So I file that away for next time, and pass it on to others out there who might be doing their first workshops and are looking for tips.
But what I was most pleased with was how my activity went! Here is what I did: before the convention, I made a spreadsheet with 22 genre and subgenre categories and 22 “wildcard” story or world elements. I coded playing cards to those 44 options (I plan to modify this method*). At the workshop, everyone drew 2 cards from the wildcard stack and 2 cards from the genre/subgenre stack. Everyone was allowed to trade out one card if they wished to. Then we spent about 10 minutes writing a “book blurb” (the teaser on the back of a book) based on the elements we drew.
Funny thing was, three of us (myself included) randomly ended up with elements that described something we had already written or were working on! Some crazy serendipity there.
Everyone who attended came up with really great ideas, every one of which I would totally read if I came across it! Tried it out back at the vendor table with some of my cohorts, too, and they came up with awesome ideas, as well. So I’m very happy with the exercise, but for the sake of simplicity I think *the coding method could be tweaked. There’s probably an easier method with the cards and cards have the advantage that once one is drawn, no one else will get the same thing as the others. I would definitely use two different decks of two different colors in the future to ensure that the two stacks stay distinct. It might also be reasonable in a small group to cut out four of the 44 options and use four 20-sided dice of two different colors, and just re-roll if anything gets repeated. Or you could draw slips from two separate hats! If anyone thinks of a better method, feel free to comment and tell me!
If you want to give the game a shot, pick your way to randomize and play! Here are my lists, but you can make up your own wildcards or use genres or subgenres I didn’t think of:
|#||Genres & Subs (pick 2)||#||Wildcards (pick 2)|
|1||Fantasy||A||on a spaceship|
|2||Science Fiction||B||in the Jazz Age|
|3||Romance||C||in an ancient civilization|
|4||Mystery||D||with humorous elements|
|5||Thriller||E||with a dragon|
|6||Horror||F||in a foreign country|
|7||Historical Fiction||G||with a ghost|
|8||Suspense||H||with a robot|
|9||Comedy||I||during the Revolution|
|10||Paranormal||J||when pirates show up|
|11||Survival||K||in a hidden world|
|12||Steampunk||L||after civilization crumbles|
|13||Cyberpunk||M||with a cat|
|14||Dystopian||N||with supernatural creatures|
|15||Alternate History||O||and magic|
|16||Western||P||leading to a trial|
|17||Noir||Q||while on the run from the mob|
|18||Futuristic||R||while on the run from agents|
|19||Retro||S||before recorded history|
|20||Gothic||T||after the village is raided|
|21||Satire||U||when an invention changes everything|
|22||Coming-of-Age||V||during a family reunion|
Here is one of the combos I drew and the blurb I did based on it:
Romance / Alternate History / On a spaceship / Leading to a trial
Tsarina Catherine the Great is at the height of her reign when she is taken away by the dashing captain of a spaceship from an alien world. While Pugachev takes control of Russia in her absence, the Tsarina falls in love with Captain Gugog*. But the captain’s superiors demand her return and court-martial Gugog for interfering with Earth’s affairs. How will Catherine and Gugog sustain the flame they have kindled as the forces of two worlds try to tear them asunder?
*Gugog is a random thing my family says, as in, “You’re such a gugog!” or “That thingy, you know, the gugog!” Since I couldn’t think of a name off the top of my head, Captain Gugog.
I attended that workshop and I would nave NEVER have guessed that it was your very first workshop! I absolutely LOVED it and you gave me an idea for my hotel story!
I can’t wait until next year’s Imaginarium and I hope you are giving another workshop!!!!
That’s awesome! I’m so glad the workshop was helpful to you (and that I didn’t look as new at it as I felt)! I’m definitely up for doing another next year. Hope to see you there, if we don’t run into each other before!
Next time we have a writers’ retreat, bring that exercise! (Like we need more story ideas!)
That would be fun!! (Even if we have too many story ideas already – lol!)