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Venero Armanno

Readersvoice.com aims to collect a few interesting reading tips. About 100 to 150 budding writers of all ages attended Writer’s Block, at Robina Library Meeting Room, Gold Coast, to hear some Brisbane authors talking about writing. Unfortunately I only had time to catch the morning sessions. If someone is interested in learning to write, it’s worth seeing as many good writers talking as possible, whether at events like these or other events like comic-cons. Many authors have different ideas on what makes good fiction, but they all subscribe to a lot of the principles of good writing. You can learn a lot about the business side of writing, too.

Teleogenic isn’t a word you hear that often to describe plots. But author Venero Armanno said stories were teleogenic: by the time the reader arrived at the end of the story he would understand the meaning of all the events that had gone before. For example, if a princess dies at the end of the story, we would re-read the events before as a lead-up to a tragedy. If the Joker defeated Batman at the end of a movie, you’d see the whole movie in a new light.
Teleogenics comes under cybernetics, says Wikipedia, citing this definition by Peter Corning: “A cybernetic system is by definition a dynamic purposive system; it is ‘designed’ to pursue or maintain one or more goals or end-states”.
Everything in a plot adds up to the ending.

Venero (Veny) Armanno is a writer worth seeing if the chance arises. He said one thing he’d learned about the writing business was that authors get one chance with a publisher or agent, so you had to offer your best work. He is the author of several novels including My Beautiful Friend, The Lonely Hunter and Strange Rain. He said it was important for writers to find their “beat”, just as journalists might have a crime beat they specialised in, or a business beat.
Here are a couple of other points he made.

On dialogue, Mr Armanno said it served to entertain, reveal character and advance the story. It shouldn’t be over-used for exposition or telling the story. And he said if characters are agreeing in dialogue, it makes for dull reading. There should always be some conflict, even if it’s subtle.
He talked about arcs. There were story arcs, where things have changed from the beginning to the end of the story: e.g. the resolution of a problem; getting from A to B on a journey; two characters forming a relationship. Things are happening, leading to something new in the story.
There were emotional arcs in scenes, where a character might go from happy at the beginning of a scene when he wins a race, to sad at the end, after he gets dumped by a girlfriend.
For a novel with good story arcs, he recommended The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love, a 1989 novel by Oscar Hijuelos. It’s a sad story, told by an old man, Cesar Castillo, sitting in a seedy hotel room remembering the 1950s, when he and his brother came to America from Cuba to play music.
Mr Armanno also spoke highly of Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh. He said it seemed like the characters wanted nothing. But they took drugs. Why? For escape and for pleasure. What are they escaping from? The social structure. So they’re not just sitting in a room. They are motivated to deal with nothingness. They want something strongly.

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– copyright Simon Sandall