How to get started on a story

At work this week, following a busy summer that’s left me feeling like I didn’t really have a holiday at all, we’ve been looking at their creative writing. Their task is to build towards a short story using a poem as a springboard for ideas. Towards the end of the week, we came across an interesting stumbling block that made me think a bit more about stories in particular, and what they are intending to write. We were writing the opening of a story using techniques gathered from other writers, having looked at examples and what we liked in an …

The Semi-Colon

I was reading James Scott Bell’s Writing Fiction for All You’re Worth: Strategies and Techniques for Taking Your Fiction to the Next Level on my holiday (excellent – the only sunny week of the summer and we were in Kent!) and came across these comments: “Do not use semi-colons. They are tranvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college.” – Kurt Vonnegut “For non-fiction, essays and scholarly writing, the semi-colon does serve a purpose; I’ve used them myself. In such writing you’re often stringing lots of thoughts together for a larger purpose and the semi-colon allows …

What’s in a name?

Names are a funny thing. As I know a lot of teachers, professionally and in my own family, it’s sometimes a topic of conversation – how someone can live up to their name without even knowing it. If you’ve got a Tyler in your class, beware! Emilys will usually be sweet and quiet, at least early on, and then you’ve got the more quirky – I once taught a class that had a Willow and a Branch in it! Of course, there are exceptions, but names are very powerful things – in old stories and ancient mythology, to know someone’s …

In defence of the blockbuster

The Atlantic has an interesting article in defence, really, of Stephen King. Essentially, it says that despite the fact his prose is neither beautiful nor poetic, he writes excellent stories that are worth reading. That’s not exactly full of praise, but I suppose it’s a start: What’s not really arguable, I think, is that such tales are worth writing and worth reading, even if beauty of language and subtlety of characterization get sacrificed along the way. Not all stories have to do the same things. In the original argument over at the Los Angeles Review of Books, the debate was …

Poetry Friday: Marital Visit

Marital Visit The odd thing put away in the wrong place – cups and plates back in the cupboard that I always leave out, curtains open on the street that I always keep drawn, remind me of your recent brief progress through here, looking for something in the attic. How could I forget: butter in the fridge, but never eggs, burnt matches everywhere, in spite of the gas lighter, jam jars soaking in water to get the labels off. How typical of you to give the Chinese teapot a last chance to prove itself in company. And look at that …

Children’s fantasy worlds

This article by the Guardian – Children’s Books Reflect Harsh Reality – has some definitely interesting points to it. It’s been written in response to an article “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road: Challenging the Mythology of Home” published in the Journal of Children’s Literature which suggests that instead of coming home to a loving, secure environment – albeit one that’s been temporarily disrupted by evil step-parents, witches or smugglers, that children instead have homes which have problems of abuse, children taking on the parental role, and so on. Parents are either “ineffective, amoral or confusing” or at best “loving but traumatised” …