Thursday, October 6, 2022

Creatures, Crimes, and Creativity Conference 2022 - Part One

 The ninth Creatures, Crimes, and Creativity conference took place September 30 – October 2. It’s over now and I’m sorry to see it go. This was my eighth, and best, C3. While I now view panel attendance as more entertainment than education – which stands to reason after attending conferences for going on fifteen years – I took more notes at last week’s C3 than I have for any conference in quite a while. To give an idea of how action-packed things were, I skipped only one of the fourteen panel slots.


The plan here was to recap the highlights in this week’s blog, but it would run over 1600 words and I have more respect for your time than that. We’ll do about half today and half next week. If you’d like to learn more, there’s nothing stopping you from attending next year’s conference, September 8 – 10, 2023 at the Doubletree Hotel in Columbia MD.


Note: I attributed comments to their utterers without putting them in quotes, as my note taking skills are not that great. Apologies if I didn’t get some as intended. My personal thoughts are in parentheses.



I hit the ground running, moderating a panel on what the FBI actually does, and doesn’t do, and dispelling some myths. Panelists Bruce Robert Coffin, Jeffrey James Higgins, and Allie Marie all had experience interacting with the FBI and supplied a lot of good information from a perspective of one foot inside and one foot out that provided an excellent mix of distance and intimacy with the Bureau’s workings.


In the Historical Fiction panel, Wayland Smith noted you need to write things that could have happened, even if not verifiable. (If it helps your story to have Bill Hickok and Seth Bullock meet in Deadwood, go for it. They were there at the same time, though there is no record of a meeting.)


In the Complex Plotting panel, Charles Salzberg noted something that more writers need to hear: avoid characters who are there just to die. (If the reader has no other connection, they won’t care.)


Journalism panels at C3 are always exceptional. Austin Camacho led Mark Bergin, John DeDakis, William Donahue, Rick Pullen, and Dylan Roche. My notes have 170 words on this panel alone. Here’s what stood out most:


Dylan Roche – writing fiction improves your journalism and vice versa. (Journalism improves fiction by teaching you to stay on point. Fiction improves journalism by teaching you how to tell a coherent story.)


Rick Pullen – bias may appear in newspaper headlines, but the stories are generally solid. Not true of TV.


John DeDakis – “What does it mean” is critical to good journalism.


Rick Pullen – would like to see more emphasis on process and the desire to get things right in fictional journalists. They’re not there to break the rules.


John DeDakis – double sourcing is essential.


Rick Pullen – going off the record only means you can’t print what he said. You can still use what you learn to inform future questions.


Austin Camacho – journalists will call each other out for getting something wrong.


Mark Bergin – papers often report what someone said and readers will incorrectly attribute that opinion to the paper.


John DeDakis – The perceived accuracy of a story may depend on the quality of the information the source dispenses.



In the Diversity in Fiction panel, Cheryl Head noted that what makes a character “diverse” (race, gender, LGBTQ, etc.) should not define that character. (Cheryl said this much better. My notes are hard to read.)


In the panel on writing female protagonists, Terry Brooks noted that people relate to a character depending on how much of themselves or others they recognize, and that we should only describe characters as much as is necessary to the story.


Moderator Dani Pettrey mentioned that Sue Grafton never sold the Kinsey Millhone stories to the movies because she didn’t want to upset the readers’ mental image of Kinsey.


Austin Camacho came back to moderate the Reality in Fiction panel.


Raymond Benson once asked the FBI if he could speak to their human trafficking expert as research. She let him shadow her for a day. (You’d be surprised at how accommodating people and agencies can be.)


Along those lines, the Marines allowed Tom Young to spend a day at the sniper school at Quantico.


Words to the wise from Jeffrey James Higgins when writing action: if a person is knocked out for more than a minute or so, they’re seriously injured. (So don’t have them doing extraordinary things anytime soon.)


Two excellent quotes, courtesy of Tom Young:

·       “If you know a topic well enough, you’ll know what to leave out.” (Attributed to Hemingway.)

·       “Stuff isn’t story.” (Attributed to Tim O’Brien.)


Discussing how much of your research to include in the book, Jeffrey James Higgins recommends that writers give the reader the minimum amount they need to understand the story.


That took us to lunchtime. Come back next week for the highlights of the rest of the conference.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wonderful conference!