So you want to write… 3!

I mentioned before that I am going to start teaching a creative writing class to adult students… well, teaching is putting it a little too forcefully, leading is the word i should use as the course is under the umbrella of U3A, the University of the Third Age, a voluntary organization helping older people continue life-long learning. Today is induction day when we teachers wait to meet new students; it will be interesting for me as there is a creative writing group already running which I will share, but any new students will come to me and we’ll start the new class new together!

I am not just plunging into it, I have a plan based on my teaching of creative writing to younger students, 15-16 year olds when I was at a pupil referral unit, a school for young people who for whatever reason couldn’t cope with normal state school. I have posted recently the first two of a series of ‘lessons’, here are my ideas for working out who is telling the story:


This is an important aspect of your story and is often established in the opening.

So, who is telling the story?

  • Is it you? The unknown all-seeing narrator, who knows what is going on in every character’s mind and who can see it from everyone’s point of view?
  • Is it from a single character’s perspective and if so is the character a main player or an observer? Is the story told in the first person?
  • Do several characters tell the story in the first person?
  • Is the story told from several different points of view? If an incident occurs the different characters would understand different things, feel different things, maybe even see different things.

In a short story all these aspects are of vital importance in order for the reader to properly understand and see what the writer wants them to see.

A story can be told in many ways, not just as narrative. Examples of how to vary what you write could include:

  • Letters
  • Diaries
A diary?
  • Newspaper articles
  • Other documents
  • Scenes from the story as a play, TV programme, soap opera etc
  • Reports
  • Brochures, e.g. travel, local information, advertisement

Introduction or opening of your story

It is important to:

  • Give the reader a clue about what sort of story they are going to read
  • Give them an idea of where the story takes place, set the scene
  • Introducing your characters early on is important in a short story.
  • Hook the reader, they must want to read the next paragraph, the next page, the rest of the story

In your first paragraphs:

  • clues
  • settings
  • introductions
  • hooks


Where does your story take place… somewhere remote and mysterious – in time or place?

The setting is not just the physical location although that is very important. Use verbs, adjectives, similes, metaphors… all the tools which bring language alive in the readers’ mind. Use all the senses but use them with discrimination, use colour, describe sounds, perfumes, aromas. It does not have to be a long description, a few well-chosen words or phrases can trigger an image in your readers’ mind.

The setting is also when it happened. Is it now? Is it in the future? In the past? You don’t always need dates, use famous events to place your story in its time. You can use more subtle clues, for example your characters using old money, listening to a certain type of music, wearing a particular costume.


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