Edge of Your Seat Characterization with Ibi Kaslik



We arrived, checked out the room and the food table, then found our spaces. I saw lots of people I hadn’t seen since last month and had a chance during the networking time before the meeting to catch up. I had the warm feeling of being with my tribe, people who understand my faraway looks and character-driven comments. I was in the right place.

The room was packed and full of anticipation. Our Chair, MJ, and Special Events Coordinator, Doug, brought us up to date on events, book selling opportunities, and our draws – one for a free meeting and one for raffle prizes. I always love the opportunity to spend an afternoon with all of these great people, but that is not why we’re here.

MJ introduced Ibi Kaslik, our speaker for Sunday, March 10.

Ibi has three novels on the bookshelves right now, all well-reviewed. Besides working at her craft, she teaches Novel Writing at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies, is a mentor for other writers, and does so much more that! I read her debut novel Skinny and love her voice. I was excited to hear what she had to say.

Ibi has a relaxed way of presenting and she immediately  brought everyone together by asking and inviting questions. Her style reminded me of someone directing the conversation around the dinner table. We all had a say and felt comfortable speaking out to add our observations. All of our comments were treated with respect and brought into the larger conversation. The first thing she addressed was the concept of “show don’t tell.” Don’t roll your eyes and say, “everyone who walks through the door says, ‘show don’t tell’!” We hear it so much it almost loses its meaning, but not this time.

Ibi read an example to demonstrate her point, then she handed out a paragraph for us to analyze. The assignment: underline the shows and circle the tells. It was a short paragraph, but wow, what a lively discussion! We all know what it means to show not tell, but this approach brought up questions and clarifications and gave us time to really examine what we’re doing when we write. At the break, I ran into someone who said, “I thought I knew everything about show don’t tell, but that exercise helped me see other sides to it.”

She also talked about the Iceberg Theory of Characterization, saying that ninety percent of the work an author does around character development will never hit the page, but you can’t come to the ten percent that does go into your novel unless you do the “underwater” work. She told us that “show don’t tell” follows the same formula. Tell ten percent and show ninety percent. If you get a chance to hear Ibi, anywhere near or far, take it. It will defiantly be worth the trip.

No matter who the speaker or what the schedule is for the day, the opportunity to get together with other writers is one of the best parts of our meetings. If you haven’t been out to a meeting lately and have only vague memories of how good it is to be a part of our welcoming tribe, I hope to see you next time. It’s wonderful.

Here are some things to look forward to. Find more on the events page.

Playing the Short Game #2: You Sold a Story!: Contracts, Editing, & Reality with Douglas Smith – Thursday, March 28, 7:00pm to 9:00pm at Lauft in the Upper Canada Mall, Newmarket

WCYR Annual General Meeting + Self-publishing 101 – Sunday, April 7, 1:00pm to 4:00pm, Location TBA

Optimizing Personal Appearances with Gary McGugan – Wednesday, April 17, 7:00pm to 9:00pm at Chapters Newmarket, 17440 Yonge Street, Newmarket


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