Friday, 20 April 2012

Crime as Fiction Wendy’s Workshop Notes

Crime as Fiction  Wendy’s Workshop Notes


Crime is committed by people on the edge – a great field for writing.
It involves a reversal of a basic survival instinct
It involves extreme situations, extreme acts, extreme solutions – stepping outside the norms and values of society.
Not just the simple breaking of written laws, there are moral laws, cultural taboos

What is Crime?
Something against the law?  Crime is not an absolute. It is relative to the society and the time in which one finds oneself. (Significant for  historical crime fiction)
What about moral laws?
List your own crimes ….
List the times you might have done a criminal act if you had gone a little
( I used a true story of boys destroying a cobbler’s workshop in my novel A Woman Scorned. Boy's play 'going a bit further' is the basis of my novel Cruelty Games )

Is murder not about ‘the other’ but ourselves??

Do we have that instinct to stray, which we mostly resist? What would happen if we didn’t?     

Universality of temptation

Very high percentage of murders inside families – by a ‘person known’ to the victim.

Consider ‘Stalking people harassing, even harming their victim by imagining they are ‘known’ to them. Eg Madonna’s stalker.

Is this why people like to read crime? – very popular -    

Peeping at the monster within from a place of safety?
The fearful thrill of the strong (murderous) fairy tales?
Is the Silence of The Lambs a murderous fairy tale?
By contemplating it through story -  and surviving - we are
relieved, even exhilarated. We are more alive.

This involves temptation, which is always psychologically interesting.

Is it like a vicarious experience of war?

But easier?  Less ambiguous. Clear-cut goodies and baddies?
Commun use of warrior  language– ‘War in Crime’  ‘Front-Line’ ‘No-Go areas’ etc?
 Politicians insisting on calling terrorists criminals


WORKSHOP - Possibilities for you:

You are a witness to a crime.
LIST what you see, hear, smell, taste – crucial to the feeling of threat…

You commit the crime

LIST what you see, hear, smell, taste – frucial to the feeling of fear, of power …

WRITE  20-30 lines of a story which contains this crime. Does not have to be the beginning of the novel. Let yourself go!


 © Wendy Robertson 2012

Avril: Finding Your Story

All writers know about the search for story and for what it is we want to say. Sometimes this means digging deep, like Stephen King says to uncover the fossil – the story which is buried beneath the soil. Sometimes this digging is just that: the sheer hard work of writing itself, the pen in place of the spade. Write on, we say, and the story will emerge. But it doesn’t always work. We begin and then we get stuck. Some stories are just more stubborn than others. In my Spring Novel Group we seem to have done a fair bit of searching for our stories. Talking has helped, as has research and reading – but sometimes I think what works best is to take a fork and prod and shake the soil – mix things up a bit, change things round and see what emerges.

Here are seven ways to do that  –

7 Ways To Find Your Story
  • ·      Change the names of your characters – this can dramatically change how you think of them and what they might do  
  •     Change the location – make it entirely different – move them in time or place
  • ·      Take a trip out – go look at something, go for a walk – let your story sit there quietly      at the back of your mind.
  •     Read, watch films, talk to friends, talk to writing buddies – let your story breathe in the real world
  •     Write a first person piece for your main characters – hear their voices, know who they are and what they want.
  •     Ask what if? Pose lots of possibilities, the crazier the better.
  •      Listen to the radio – I find so much inspiration here – use listen again on i player  -  listen to The Writing Game podcasts

Sometimes its just one thing, one small idea, event that will give you the key to finding your story -Oh and one more idea which sometimes works for me with half written short stories, try combining existing stories in some way and see where that takes you – GOOD LUCK!

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Stop Press: Orange Prize for Fiction

The Shortlist for this year's Orange Prize has just been announced.

Click on  Author Profiles tab above for lists, judges. commentary and invitation to read and review....

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Wendy: Reading for Deeper Enjoyment and Reading to Write

Some aspiring writers I meet say they are so busy making time to write that they don’t have time to read. 

This is paradoxical to me. All writers should read and enjoy book as readers do. This is important,  when you are first building your writer’s skills, to read in a way which develops your sensitivity to the way in which words and prose are used by particular writers: they use all aspects of their writing craft to share their vision of life in this particular story, with their readers.

You can apply this more directly to your own writing:
It is possible and often desirable to go try this process with any writer from Dostoyevsky to Dickens, Brontë to Woolf. However, if you wish your work to strike a chord with a modern audience it’s most useful to apply this quality of attention to  well regarded contemporary work – say something written in the last five years.

  • Choose a book.
  • Avoid reading any further on-line or newsprint reviews of the book you have chosen. Discard any commentary you have already scanned. These will warp your unique perception.
  • Read the novel or story very quickly. Don’t think! Just enjoy.
  • (NB  If you find you don’t like it, find another story that you do enjoy  – you can’t develop your own writing  by analysing what you don’t like about a writer!  You will drown your own talent in negativities. Don’t waste your time.)
  • Put the story to one side and, without referring to it, make a list in your notebook  of the five things you most enjoyed about it.   These things may be anything at all. There are no right or wrong answers here,
  • Beside each item on the list write a single sentence about why this element makes the story work for you.
  • Find a direct quotation from the books which illustrates this.
  • Consider structure: How many chapters does it have? How long is each chapter?  Does the writer use chapters at all?  How do chapters begin? How do they end? How does the arc of the story work? Where do the high points or dramas occur in the story? If there are chapters what is the relationship between the end of one chapter and the beginning of another?  Look at a single chapter or section very closely. How does the writer use the length of the paragraphs? Can you spot deliberate use of long or short sentences?
  • Consider language in these pages: In a single sentence describe the kind of language this writer uses. Is it plain and forceful?  Is it soft and subtle? What is the writer’s take on simile and metaphor?  How would you define their style? What is the proportion of text here of narrative and character, between description and dialogue?
  • Take a page of this chapter and re-draft a page of your own story, sentence by sentence, in the style and form of this writer. It may seem surreal. It may seem like a parody. But what have you learnt in doing this?
  • Characterisation: Does the writer use the evolution of character to drive the story in this book? Give a quotation to illustrate this.
  • Consider themes: What is this book about? Be very broad here – don’t retell the story! Think hard and dig out the underlying themes. These could be as broad as ‘redemption through pain’,  or ‘vindication of past action through present dramas’, or as small asone woman’s successful search for happiness’ or ‘the impact of a stranger on a family’  - just make it up in your own words.
NOW!  - make a list of anything you've learned, in completing this process, that could have a direct impact on the way you tackle your own writing.  The list may be short or long, but there will be something significant here.

NOW! - apply this whole process directly to the reading of three stories. After that you will begin to notice these important elements automatically as you read. You will also begin automatically to apply elements that suit your style to your own work, as you write.

IMPORTANT TO NOTE that I am not advocating that you copy any other writer’s approach of techniques.   NOR am  I saying you should directly focus on any of these things as you write your story. Not at all.    BUT this process will expand your skills and options when you come to tackling your own writing.  It will also especially help you when you edit your own completed long work.  It can also help readers to appreciate the thought and creativity that goes into the work of a writer they admire.    WR

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

All Change At Room To Write

There are changes here at Room To Write.

 For one thing, we've changed our name to Room To Write and Read because we have found consistently that those who write are great readers and that those who read share the values of most writers. After all where would a writer be without a reader? And where would a reader be without a good book to read?

So, we've decided that the website needed to reflect both aspects of this literary experience.

In the last two years Room To Write (and now Read) has become an open-ended, combined group of both writers and readers who return again and again to enjoy the experience and especially the sheer pleasure of the exciting world of words and books.

So our new intention is to build on all this on the new website, with books which our writers have published; reviews of books by our readers. Our rather grand ambition is to feature everything that celebrates the importance of writing and reading.

Our recent conference on Kindling highlighted the significance of the eBook revolution for both new and experienced writers. It introduced them to skills which would showcase their work and make it available out there in the literary world. Writers at the conference also learned how to prepare their work to create hard copy books using the print on demand process.

We hope you will join us here on our new website and be inspired - like our current writing and reading circle - in this creative empowering enterprise.

We'd love you to join in this adventure.

Happy Writing, Happy Reading!

Wendy, Avril and Gillian

Note: The painting heading this blog is a section from a painting of the Nineteenth Century Whitworth Hall by Spennymoor artist  Fiona Naughton who has also designed some book covers for us.