How to Tell a Story to Save the World

This lecture was delivered to Birkbeck Creative Writing MA and MFA students. If you’d like to watch rather than read it, you can do so here. I’ve recently written a pamphlet, a polemic actually. Here’s the pitch: Today, I’m going to focus on only one of the five screenwriting gurus that I looked at – […]

The Seven Deadly Sins of Writing

Let’s be clear – I’m not casting the first stone. The first draft of this was called ‘Nine Ways I Have Written Badly’. I am certainly not without sin. And as they say in therapy groups, ‘If you spot it, you’ve got it.’ Mea culpa. Mea maxima culpa, etcetera.   Pride Pride (as any good […]

Starting to Write 7 – Adding depth to your characters (Lockdown Version)

Welcome back. Well done for coming so far. That proves you’re developing as a writers. Writers stick with their writing. You now have three characters you’ve written about – the child, the grown-up and the person in disguise. Perhaps you based them on people you know. Or maybe you completely imagined them (everyone works in […]

Writing and Shit – part 47 – What has happened in between then and now?

This is important. This is one thing that you can often forget. (I do.) You will have a clear idea of then (the time of the action) and a clearish idea of now (the time of the storytelling), but you won’t think enough about what the events that have taken place in between then and […]

Writing and Shit – part 46 – When is then?

The simplest form of then is a date. If you put down 13th November 1866 at the top of the first page, your job afterwards (unless you’re writing steampunk or time-travel fiction) is only to include in the story what really existed on or by that date. Supposedly. The same goes for 13th November 2019. […]

Writing and Shit – part 45 – When is now?

The simplest approach to writing a story is to say that the now of the narrator is the now the writer is in – the today they inhabit. And, of course, being to do with time, this immediately becomes extremely complicated. Novelists feel most powerfully, and sometimes damagingly, the effects of making now the day […]

Writing and Shit – part 44 – Who is reading? Who is listening?

You’re writing something – anything. Who is doing the reading or listening? I’m asking you. Your answer to this may be offhand – Well, whoever happens to pick up or download my story. But even this seemingly simple answer has consequences. In addressing an extremely generalised audience, you will still make guesses about what they […]

Writing and Shit – part 43 – Who is writing? Who is speaking?

Last time I suggested that, in order to write with a convincing, consistent, compelling voice, you needed to be able to answer to these five questions – Who is doing the telling? Who is doing the reading or listening? When is now? When is then? What has happened in between then and now? We’re going […]

Writing and Shit – part 42 – Getting voice, tone and point of view right, the easy way

I realise there may have been a little confusion, at your end, about why I’m going into point of view and time in such detail. Can’t he get onto something else? Like, how to make my sentences better. (I will. Soon.) But sentences aren’t just abstractly ‘better’. They are either appropriate or inappropriate. They either […]

Writing and Shit – part 41 – The difference between ‘You remember those…’ and ‘There used to be these…’

Thanks for coming back. I hope you are well. We’re going to continue our exploration of Point of View and Time. This is because I believe, if you’re a writer and you’re in the shit, this is likely to be the main reason. I’d like you do start off today by doing an exercise. I […]