Blog Archive

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Character analysing and reacting to the problem
Once the problem has been introduced you have to make your character react to it.  Some sort of decision has to be made.  
How they react and what they decide to do will be partly a matter of character.
You also have to decide how to show them deciding.  Do you simply make them act without any explanation, or do you make them sit down and think about things?  Talk to a friend? Who’s point of view do you take:   detached author,  victim,  trouble maker,  someone telling the story to a friend?
Oh no, nonot the ‘little  talk…!
Christina, I -  well, I. . .
In relation to the Love Theme
In the possible story sketched last week where a mother is agonising how to tell her daughter about the facts of life you could just show her making an embarrassed attempt. Here the way she talks might show her awkwardness, self-confidence, wrong assumptions, and so on.  If she talked about it with a friend  you could get the back-story in easily, through the friends questions).  Or she could be sitting in the park alone maybe rehearsing what to say. Or be looking in a bookshop.   

Using concrete imagery to express ideas

For each of the points below, write one sentence giving one example which must be ‘concrete’ – that is something you can touch, or see, or hear.   Or you could describe people’s physical reactions.  The examples below give just the general idea.    What you have to do is bring them to life by focusing attention on the things.
If you get exactly the right detail, that saves you having to describe in detail, because from that detail the reader can imagine everything else.  But more important, it gives a much strong impact.

·       Julia is standing outside the cinema waiting for James.  She’s getting anxious.

·       Debbie stands on the red carpet of the film premier looking gorgeous.

·       The party next door was very noisy

·       A van was backing laboriously up their back drive

·       The amount of alcohol had begun to affect her vision

·       When the teacher told her off little Anne was very rebellious

·       You could see that Linda had go off into one of her dreams
The Problem
The problem does not have to be world-shattering, but it does have to upset the ordinary flow of the character’s life.   And at the same time it has to engage us, the readers, and make us want to read on to find out how things get sorted out, if they do.

The problem might be physical -   someone breaks down the door and points a knife at the someone else;   or  someone realises that an enemy army is approaching their house.   Or it might be psychological -  someone might fear they are about to be put into a public ‘home’ of some kind,  or may be in despair after failing in some way.

Problem in relation to Love Theme
A  mother has been putting off the chat about the birds and the bees and protection with her daughter, now sixteen.  She is acutely embarrassed about it.   But the daughter has taken up with a man rather too old for her, the mother considers, and  so advice is now, in her mind, ’urgent’, especially as her daughter is not nearly worldly enough, the mother fears.
The problem may, of course, be drawn out.  She may pluck up courage and start the conversation, and then by interrupted or her daughter may herself be over embarrassed and run away – leaving her vulnerable, the mother will realise.

How would you introduce the problem?   Have a ‘resolution’ in mind, an end which is ‘right’ but unexpected.    
Dramatic Openings

Creative a one or two sentence opening in which he establish and situation dramatically.   

For example
1       Then the snarling dogged leapt at her.
2      “I’m sorry, Albert, but I’m leaving you.  Now.”
3        The spreadeagled puppy had been nailed by each of its paws to the back door.

          Some ‘backstory’ is required.  See if you can supply some

Love Theme

Write a ‘scene’ in which a man is complaining that his wife no longer seems to love him in the way she did years ago.    It’s not an argument between them, but her trying to get him to understand that she, as it were, ‘misses’ him.  He’s always too busy for her, or not fully listening to what she is saying.  They never do anything together.
You have to decide what his response it.   Try to avoid the cliché that well he’s just an insensitive bloke.   Perhaps he hasn’t realised her feelings.   Does he feel guilty?  Or does he feel that she is overdoing it, perhaps because of some other disappointment?  
Obviously much of this is going to be dialogue, but you have to decide also whether you’re going to trace their thoughts,  which point of view you’re going to take.  Are we sharing his thoughts, hers,  or looking at them from a detached narrator’s viewpoint?
To make a story/play/narrative of this it’s probably a good idea to make their first conversation inconclusive and then let them be ‘alone’ to think, maybe ask a friend, pray, take stock of the marriage.  
You might want to relate the discussion and the relationship to some issues, such as equality.   Do they fall into gender stereotypes?   Is the way they live in some way unfair to one, or even both of them?   Are them making over idealistic assumptions about Love?

You can open at the ‘natural’ beginning of the story, or you can jump to a later point and find ways of letting the reader know what has happened.   
You can start with narration or with dialogue
You can start with observation of the main character, and/or with his/her thoughts

Imagine a story or a poem or play about someone who thinks they are being spied on.     She’s found something in the shed.  She does in fact have a very guilty secret.    She decides to hide near the shed that night.   
Where would you start this?    Think of at least TWO possibilities and write half a page of opening.

A child doesn’t come home from school as expected.      His  father is away in America on a business trip.   His mother starts  looking for him,  thinking there may be a school club that he hasn’t told her about.  
Think of  TWO  points at which you might start this story, and write half a page of opening

Monday, 3 April 2017

Spring Term: week 8

Realising you are alive -  and just once

A moment that comes suddenly upon when

·      looking at something or someone
·      realising what’s just happened
·      you’ve narrowly escaped
·      ‘seeing’ someone for the first time
·      thinking about ‘afterlife’
·      what you will be reincarnated as
·      seeing the moon through binoculars

Week 9

Realising how blind  you’ve been, or someone else has been

Write something about now in relation to the past.  Something way back which, you realise now but didn’t realize then.   It could be how unhappy your mother or father must have been, or how little you appreciated a certain place you lived in,   help someone gave you.  Or you may realize by a chance remark,  a discovered letter, how much someone cared for you (or didn’t like you!).  

You may discover that your mother or father or husband or wife never realized how important art, or a certain place, or they themselves, were was to you.   


Saturday, 11 February 2017


Theme for this Term:    Realizing

This is an important theme because it is ALSO a way of thinking about the overall form of a piece of writing.   A story or a poem very often ends with a moment of surprise when the reader, or a character.    In a popular story, or in a detective novel, the reader is kept from knowing how things are going to end, who the guilty person is,  until the end.   The cunning writing can even lead the reader down the garden path a bit by giving him the idea that it’s Christina who’s the vampire, when it fact’s cunning Mark.    In other kinds of writing you find that often the writer him/herself suddenly realise them thing as they write:  that’s why I’m fascinated with goldfish!    Or the writer may make a character look into the complicated mesh of branches against the sky and lead us to think, yes, problems can be like that.  

If you remember the narrative structure diagram I gave you (version of it below), the last part of it is the ‘resolution’ and it’s this that presents the ‘realization’,  which needs to be a surprise of some sort because the story otherwise would be boring;  we’d have guessed what was going to happen.

Often, of course, realization works at a more personal level when we, or the character we are writing through, realizing something about him or herself.     This is what we mean when we say that writing is a kind of learning.   And it’s the best kind of learning because we have done it ourselves.  

The story structure was created by Labov, originally, to describe oral narratives, but has been used for written work as well.  We also need to bear in mind that it applies to non-narrative texts too, of you alter 'situation' to something like 'thought' or 'feeling'


An ordinary situation
husband and wife having supper at home

The ordinary situation is upset in some way
She tells him she's got a lover.   They are about to run away together.

The upset creates a problem
What will be do?   Not only is he heartbroken, but his wife is very rich.

The main character tries to deal with the problem
Next evening at supper he tells his wife he has murdered the lover   

The problem is resolved (not necessarily solved)*
The wife rushes to the lover's house and finds him dead and rings the police.
The husband has resolved his problem.   However:.

The resolution is not what we expected
 We realize and she realizes that she has fallen into a trap left by the husband that will lead 
to her being accused of the murder.

*The attempt to deal with the problem can lead to further problems which have to be dealt with, thus lengthening and complicating the story

A child 
       realizes. . .
Write something in which a child realises something.  Something about nature, Mummy, adults, caterpillars, him/herself

In The Wizard of Oz Dorothy realizes that the wizard is in fact a fake.     In The Ugly Duckly, the duckling realises he’s a swan.

Week Two One

Realising they’re human.

Write something in which
someone who’s always seemed

very cold and distant shows that

they have feelings, which you
hadn’t suspected.

People are sometimes brought up ‘not to show their feelings’ or they may be insecure and fear to ‘let their guard down’,  and they may be trying to conceal their feelings from you for some reason.   Inability to show feelings is often seen as a male characteristic because ‘boys don’t cry’.   But that doesn’t always hold.  

Scrooge – has a change of heart

Week Three

Realizing they’re not so stupid, or weak after all. . .

Write something about a person  who  seems in some way ‘inferior’.   But then something happens that shows  different

The elephant has no time at all for the stupid scuttling little mouse until one day something gets caught in the elephant’s trunk and he needs someone delicate and small to get it out.

The old woman insists on sleeping in the garden shed.   One night the house burns down.

The posh schoolboy jeers at the garden boy every time he goes past but one day finds the boy was become famous for his roses.

Wife grows tired of her boring stay-at-home husband, and when she’s out enjoying herself and gets kidnapped, who ends up as the hero of her rescue?

Or David makes us realize that with God's help and some cunning the small can defeat the big



Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Baby: creative writing, Omega Centre

A Baby

Write about a baby.    A baby being born, or a baby just born - yours or someone else’s.   Or imagine the experience from the point of view of the baby.
Or write about caring for a new baby, or watching someone care for him/her.

Think about:  the sounds,  what the sounds are like.  The wrinkles, the angles of arms and legs, the inside of the mouth, movements against you, fearsome vulnerability, toes,