I recently gave a 2-hour workshop on “ecology of story” at Calgary’s When Words Collide writing festival in August, 2019.
The workshop—based on my third writing guidebook: “The Ecology of Story: World as Character”—explored some of the major relationships in functional ecosystems and how to effectively incorporate them in story. We briefly explored how ecosystems and ecological processes work and looked at several of the more bizarre examples of ecological adaptation.
I showed how treating world and place as character provides depth and meaning to story through its integration with plot, theme, and other characters. We looked at these story components as integral to help ground the reader in context and meaning of story. We explored place / setting as metaphor, symbol, archetype, and allegory.
Through literary examples of setting and place, we looked at how readers are drawn into story through metaphor, sensual description, and thematic integration through POV character.
Then came the story-building part of the workshop—a snappy, fast-paced dialogue among all workshop participants. Using the book’s cover image as story-prompt, we worked through the story components of premise, theme, character, plot and setting. Following a lively discussion, we succeeded in creating a stunning first crack at a story that was both original and intriguing. And at whose heart was a strong sense of place and identity.
“The Ecology of Story” had only recently been launched at Type Books in Toronto and saw its first use at the Calgary When Words Collide conference. Books were sold out an hour after the workshop.
“The Ecology of Story” recently achieved Amazon Bestseller status in the Ecology category.
Nina is a Canadian scientist and novelist. She worked for 25 years as an environmental consultant in the field of aquatic ecology and limnology, publishing papers and technical reports on water quality and impacts to aquatic systems. Nina has written over a dozen eco-fiction, science fiction and fantasy novels. An award-winning short story writer, and essayist, Nina currently lives in Toronto where she teaches writing at the University of Toronto and George Brown College. Her non-fiction book “Water Is…”—a scientific study and personal journey as limnologist, mother, teacher and environmentalist—was picked by Margaret Atwood in the New York Times as 2016 ‘The Year in Reading’. Nina’s most recent novel “A Diary in the Age of Water”— about four generations of women and their relationship to water in a rapidly changing world—will be released in 2020 by Inanna Publications.
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