Saturday, 5 November 2016

Short Stories with Alex Gray

Photo by R Gemmell

Our own Alex Gray was tutor for today, advising us on writing a short story. She explained that the beginning has to be interesting enough to make a reader want to find out what happens next. It has to have a central theme in which a character undergoes some form of change and a neat ending that leaves the reader satisfied or even breathless with admiration. In addition, every word has to count.

The opening line will normally dictate whether or not a reader will spend time reading it all the way through. Each of us attempted to write a paragraph which would hook the reader and a variety of stories emerged, ranging from war-torn cities, relationships, memories of family life or work, not forgetting futuristic and fantasy worlds.

After that, into the meat of the story and Sandra used the ‘necklace’ metaphor to help with structuring. The hook is the beginning of the clasp and the beads represent the build-up getting bigger and bigger as the main action of your story emerges then rounding off towards the end of the story and the other end of the clasp with perhaps an echo of how the story started.

Alex guided us through whether or not the story should be written in first person or third person, where the story was set, who the characters were, what was happening, why the characters acted as they did and how a change could come about. And changes there were. We followed her advice to read aloud and edit, edit, edit.

The afternoon finished with Alex reading a story, ‘Madeira Cake’, by Linda Menzies who was placed second in The William Soutar Writing Prize competition 2016.

A very pleasant and informative session.

Wilma Ferguson

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