Step behind the scenes of our Bradford short story course at the City Library, tutored by Mark Connors, which kicked off last month, as one of the course participants shares their experiences of taking part, sharing the highs, the lows, and – fingers crossed! – some successful and enjoyable short story writing. Writer and previous course participant Benjamin Cassidy has agreed to provide the inside scoop on what goes on during our Comma course workshops.
For details of our other current and upcoming short story courses, check out our website. New courses starting in the Autumn in Manchester, Newcastle and Bristol, details to be announced in due course.
But for those who can’t wait for the next course to start, check out our ‘Understanding the Short Story‘ page on our website; there you can find exercises, reading lists, and information about key short story theory, all for free.

Session 2 of the Bradford Comma Press Short Story Course went to show that many heads truly are better than one, when it comes to critiquing work and getting feedback to improve. With the group having read one another’s work, we could all ask about anything that wasn’t clear, or explain what was meant by any comments. The standard of work was as impressive as the range of stuff written. The environment was the right blend of conversational, yet focused. The feedback, so critically valuable on a course such as this, was honest, but constructive enough to ensure it was a positive experience.

Mark Connors, course tutor, allowed everyone to give their input, before offering his own views. He identified strength and areas for improvements, so that aspiring authors can take their work forward. He allowed us to see what can be gained from a good, round the table chat. Another great skill that Mark says can never be rated high enough that was to be gained is becoming a strong critical reader. Looking at others work meant that elements such as plot, characterisation, narrative viewpoint and plausibility can be strengthened as a result of it. It stands to reason that if you make the same mistake again and again, you’re unlikely to see it in your own work. However, others will and their advice can help you to develop as a writer. Aside from that, it’s a lot of fun to get to know the imagination of the group, their inspirations and aspirations.

Next came some actual writing. This session focused on characters and characterisation. We were asked to think of people we know well and record their quirks, attitudes and anything else distinctive. Conversely, we were then asked to think of someone we don’t know well, a friend of a friend, or perhaps a person we’d like to know more. The actions that these people have done or ways they’ve conducted themselves were particularly pertinent in helping to see how strong traits are and behaviours, within fictional characters. Such aspects may come to help define their motivations, which ties in with the need for conflict. Without this, a story can’t really operate.

As the session ended, it felt like a few minutes had passed. That’s partly owing to the buzz in the room, that seemed to make time zip by. The keenness for everyone to write and share is abundant. Whilst writing is predominantly a solitary affair, the gains of bouncing ideas off others and in seeing how they get things done is absolute gold to an aspiring writer. So much time is spent within your own mind, swamped by your thoughts, that at times it feels stifling. As well as seeing others succeeding in the group, and learning from them (as well as them from you), being a part of a course like this at times gives you the assurance that it really isn’t just you that struggles. Hearing from Mark, a successful published author, as he tells you about getting so far with a project and then having to entirely re-think things is refreshing – especially because he got through it, and he believes you will too. Informative, fun and inspiring. A great group and a natural teacher, with a clear love for writers, not just his own work.

Benjamin Francis Cassidy, 36, was born in Blackpool is an aspiring author. Alumni of MMU, he writes short-fiction, poetry and contributes to music magazines and local interest/social enterprise blogs, including: Louder Than War, Haunt Manchester!, Volition Manchester (Cathedral volunteering services). His work has also been commissioned by and appeared on the Elizabeth Gaskell House website. He currently lives in Rusholme, with his cat, Lucy. 

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