Joseph Nassise talks about his “The Art of Story Structure” workshop

JN2Tell us something about your Stokercon workshop that is not in the original description.

Fiction, for me, is all about taking your reader on an emotional journey. Do it right and you’ve got a fan for life.  So the best way of doing that is to understand the story you want to tell in all its intricacies before you write it.  This workshop helps you do that.

What skills or achievements make you ideally suited to lead this workshop?

I’m an award-nominated writer and editor with thirty-seven book length projects to my credit.  My debut novel, Riverwatch, was nominated for both the International Horror Guild Award and the Bram Stoker award.  My debut project as as editor, Midian Unmade: Tales of Clive Barker’s Nightbreed, was nominated for the Bram Stoker Award as well.  I’ve worked as an independent writing coach for more than a decade and most recently began teaching in Arizona State University’s Your Novel Year program.

In short, I think I’ve got a pretty good handle on how stories are constructed and I’ve got the teaching experience to show others what I know.

Why do you feel that your workshop subject is especially important?

We’re all neurologically wired for story and as a result, we have subconscious expectations of how stories should be told.  When writers violate those expectations, we, as readers, feel let down, maybe even cheated a little.  If you’ve ever read a book and put it down out of boredom a third of the way through, you know what I’m talking about.  The writer has failed to meet your expectations of one kind or another.

This workshop teaches you to use those expectations to your advantage as a writer, to hook your reader by the throat and then give them the emotional journey they were longing for when they opened your book for the first time.  It will improve your work as a writer and, over time, improve your sales as an author.  Those two things are the key to a successful career.

If you could participate in one other Stokercon workshop, which one would you choose and why?

I’d probably take Skipp’s plotting course.  I suspect we do a lot of the same things but come at them in a different way and I find comparisons  between the ways stories are constructed to be fascinating.

Do you approach the craft of writing horror differently from other genres?

Honestly, no, I don’t.  And let me tell you why.  A story is a story, regardless of the genre in which it is told. Sure you use different tropes when writing a horror novel than you might a romance, but the basic structure of the story should be the same.  And to me, a good story is all about the way it was put together.

Apart from teaching your workshop, what are you most looking forward to at Stokercon?

I haven’t had a chance to be with the HWA crowd in some time and I’m looking forward to seeing old friends and meeting new ones.

What do you most hope that those attending your workshop take away from it?

I hope attendees take away the fact that in order to tell the best possible version of the story you want to tell, you need to have a powerful premise to start with, a compelling conflict to hold it together, and use a purposeful (aka intentional) structure to present it.

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