Read the first instalment of the Newcastle Course Blog series here.
Read the second instalment of the Newcastle Course Blog series here.
Read the third instalment of the Newcastle course blog here.
To learn more about our short story courses and to find out details of our upcoming courses, visit the courses page on our website.
And to learn more about the short story form, view writing exercises and read famous stories for free, visit our resources page.
Just two hours, with a break, but we packed a lot into this month’s class.
Not one, not two, but three creative exercises, and I got to tell you, ordinarily I don’t do exercise. 9/10 personal injuries? Yup. Exercise. You ask any risk analyst.
One writer friend of mine, he slipped a synapse playing a word association game.
But I got this character in mind. First exercise of the evening fleshed him out nicely, thank you.
I have long had this opening scene for him planned. Second jaunt around the circuit, honestly? We might have done without the route march call- back whilst scribbling.
(What am I doing this for?
You need you a metaphor.
Don’t they all just grow on trees?
Metaphors. No clichés, please)
But out of that opening scene, got me an extended metaphor, too. In landscape, weather, low and behold, there thaws his emotional arc!
Pumping pumping . . .
As for the third, this was an editing exercise, a lesson in how to pare back prose. Readers want nothing superfluous or surplus to requirement. That means no rephrasing of the same point already made. More is less. So, no great long lists of adjectives. Moreover, no adverbs. They both only will slow the flow of a passage and drag a reader down. Most important of all, no repetition. It will only drag you down.
We also discussed two cracking stories, Kevin Barry’s Atlantic City and Breece D’J Pancake’s Trilobites. Who ever would have thought that somebody with such a funny name could write anything so sad?
Avril raised, not for the first time, Comma’s invitation to each of its classes around the country to produce a collection of its work for an e-book they’ll promote.
Honestly, I’ll splash my name in mud across a pig’s arse. To a Comma Press production I am not going to say no. But some amongst us were, I sensed, just a little hesitant in stepping forward?
So, my shy Newcastle colleagues, firstly, this: why pass up any opportunity? Nothing ever came of ‘No’ but regret, believe me.
When I was a boy, our school vicar hauled me up before all my South London mixed-gender schoolmates to suggest I might make — wait for it — that year’s Nativity’s perfect Virgin Mary. I declined on grounds of insurmountable gender difference.
Oh, had I only known my stage & film history then. From Shakespeare’s own King’s Men’s John Honey to Hollywood’s Eddie Murphy (Big Momma’s House 2 was better than 1. I don’t care what Kermode says) what a fine tradition of boys and men playing women I might have been a part.
Secondly (pumping pumping . . .), this: we don’t want Sheffield, Manchester, Leeds producing something we can’t, do we? The hell we don’t.
GO TEAM AVRIL. GO TEAM AVRIL.
We can do this, Newcastle. Faces bent to pages, ladies. Pens poised. Give me twelve, soldiers!
Short stories are what we do . . .
Yeh, well, anyway, I think we should.
And lastly, Avril, you also mentioned an anthology you’re compiling of stories by women writers?
Well, hello, Clayella Lister.
My beard is off. They stuck me in a dress to play Joseph instead of Mary, anyway. Called it a smock. It had no crotch. What’s the difference? I’ll dig it out. More than happy to don it again for a Waterstones reading. It might be a little more revealing than it was. I’ve grown some. Sure no one will mind.
Anyone? Nope? Whoo-ee, away we go.
Clayton Lister is a long-time lover of the short story. Most recently, his stories have appeared in Bare Fiction, Prole Magazine and the HISSAC Winners Anthology.