Sunday, 16 August 2009

Continuum 5 - Harness the energy

I spent this weekend at the annual Continuum convention, essentially a weekend of socialising with other speculative fiction writers (published novelists, successful short story writers, and those still aspiring).

It began with our monthly brunch, relocated to Mr Tulk, the elegant cafe/bar annexed to the State Library. According to one web site, this rates in the top 10 brunch cafes in the Melbourne CBD, but although I must say I LOVED the decor and ambiance, I was underwhelmed by the breakfast menu. Having said that, my scrambled eggs were very tasty.

It was the fastest brunch ever, and we were all back at the con for some panels on 'The art of expansion from short story to novel', 'Untapped fears' (a panel on the horror genre), and 'The sparkly modern-day vampire (and his less sparkly cousins)'. Lots of interesting discussion.

I was particularly taken with some of AG's comments on the 'expansion' panel - she outlined her concept of a 'character portal', which is essentially a significant past experience that colours the way in which a character reacts to/perceives events in a story. Any one character might have several portals that shape their character, and any one of these might become dominant at any point in time. It's an interesting way of looking at how a character's past can really affect their emotions and decisions in the present.

She also referred to 'energy' in a story, and how a writer should 'go where the energy is' - particularly in the context of expanding a story, or embarking on a sequel. In fact, this was identified as a good premise for conceptualising sequels: rather than a single story covering multiple books, a sequel can launch from a complete story. Essentially, one should look at where the 'energy' is (ie the interesting stuff that has a life of its own) and springboard from there.

We also went to a book launch on Saturday night - a short story collection from someone I don't personally know, but who is evidently a great young writer. The launch took place at this quaint little bar called Cabinet on Rainbow Alley, which is just off Little Lonsdale; the bar has a balcony overlooking Swanston Street. We drank a lovely red wine -- Sanguine Shiraz -- very smoky and smooth. Mmmm.

After a chili infested Chinese meal we ended up in the con bar and drank the evening away in conversation and congenial company. It was great to catch up with some of my writing group not officially at the con, but who had dropped by for the evening.

Today's events were more subdued, with a couple of panels on 'The past is a different country' (comparing he challenges of writing historical fiction and SF), and 'Do you have to be a scientist to write GOOD science fiction'. We ate a nice lunch at the Groove Train in Melbourne Central, then went back after the con to another cafe in the complex for coffee and cake. (I confess I ate very badly today -- fries with lunch and an enormous slice of cake in the afternoon. Will have to work that off this week!)

A great weekend. All I need to do is harness the energy and get some discipline.


  1. A great place for breakfast in the city is Cafe Alcaston. Corner of Collins and Spring. The cafe is actually "in the building". You enter the building, ignore the stairs to basement on your right, then take the first door on your right. I _highly_ recommend their french toast and their omlette. Great coffee too. I go there for breakfast once every three or four weeks. Love it.

    As for the Con convention ... can't comment much, except that it's great you're rubbing shoulders with like minds.

    Cheers, A

  2. Good tip, which I will try to remember if ever I am seeking brunch in town again.

    However, the other unmentioned advantage of Mr tulk was its close proximity to the con venue. Rather nearer than Collins/Spring!

    Would love to try your cafe at some stage though.