C3: An Intimate Conference
One of my favorite reasons to travel to the D.C. area is the Creatures, Crime, & Creativity (C3) Conference. Organized by Intrigue Publishing, the conference welcomes writers and readers of horror, mystery, suspense, thriller, science fiction, fantasy, paranormal and—recently added—romance. C3 was held September 30–October 2, 2016 at the Sheraton Columbia Town Center in Columbia, Maryland.
What I looked forward to the most were the master classes taught by the conference keynote authors: Reed Farrel Coleman, "Lessons from a Lifetime of Writing," and Alexandra Sokoloff, "Screenwriting Tricks for Authors."
Coleman (pictured, lower right) discussed why talent is not enough and summed up it up with this advice. "There is only one way to know if you've got the requisite talent, and that's to keep trying, keep writing. There is no such thing as wasted writing.”
Sokoloff (pictured, upper left) presented the Three-Act, Eight Sequence Structure, a technique most screenwriters use and showed how it can be applied to novel writing. "There is a rhythm to dramatic storytelling, and your reader knows this rhythm and unconsciously expects it."
Since I'm currently working on a mystery novel, the panel discussion that caught my attention was "Villains: Circumstances or Born That Way?" with Sokoloff, Kathryn O'Sullivan, and Glenn Parris. The idea of my villain came to me before I even thought about my protagonist, and I've always been interested in what motivates people to do criminal activity. It's not surprising that the three authors on the panel had three different ideas of what a villain might be: 1) everyday people who are in bad situations or who will do anything to keep a secret; 2) villain as a metaphor—the protagonist and antagonist are the same but at different ends of the spectrum; and 3) the villain doesn't have to be a person (e.g., greed and ambition).
For me, after the master classes, the speeches, and the panels, the best part of a small and intimate conference is eating our meals together and meeting up at the bar for a glass of wine, listening to each other’s problems with plot, voice, or the next big idea.
I always leave a conference like this and realize I've found my tribe, people that understand my struggles as a writer. For me, this is where I find a network of writer-friends, and the true meaning of “rising tides lift all boats.”
Paula Lanier is currently working on a mystery novel and resides in Brooklyn, N.Y.