So you want to writer… 4!

I mentioned before, that having taught English and creative writing to young people nearly all my working life (apart from brief spells in a pickle onion factory, a shoes shop and working for a dodgy charity – I didn’t know it was dodgy at the time!) I am about to embark on teaching creative writing to adults, on a U3A course. U3A, the University of the Third Age, is a voluntary organization which has been running many years for people who wish to carry on learning through their lives, and wish to make use off their golden time in the third age!

There is a group running at present, but it is overfull and there is a waiting list, so I am going to run a second group, and today is the day I meet my potential students for the first time!

I am not sure exactly how my teaching will go when I start my own group, I want them to have an input as it is for them after all – and rather than teaching, I will be leading… a subtle difference! here is the next part of the course I wrote for my young students when I worked in a pupil referral unit:

Putting your readers on the right train….

Having arrived at the right station for catching the train through your story to your destination, the end, it is important to know who your travelling companions are.


  • The reader relies on the writer to give them information about the characters.
  • Names are important; think how old a person is as names often relate to age, an old lady is not likely to be called Beyoncé but a small child might be.
  • Be consistent; don’t change the colour of someone’s eyes for example (unless they are using contact lenses for a specific reason!)
  • Character is not just appearance, it is the personality, characteristics, habits, behaviour. Characters may need jobs or occupations, friends, family, relatives, favourite places, food, TV programmes.
  • In a longer story characters may need birthdays, they may need to take exams, go on holiday, visit an aged relative, have Christmas!
  • In a short story do not introduce too many characters. Be careful about names, do not have too many that are similar unless you do so for a very specific reason, Shane/Shawn/Shania, Carol/Carl/Carla, Chris/Chrissie/Christa.
  • Be clear in your own mind what your characters are like – make notes separate from your story to remind you, to keep your people consistent, to make them believable and rounded individuals.

Don’t get too fond of your characters!

Who are your characters, where do they live, what are their names?


This is what happens. It is the sequence of the events or actions which happen in the story, and the reasons why they happen.

The reader has to understand what goes on, why the characters behave as they do. The plot has to be believable within the world the writer has created (even if it’s an imaginary or future world, it has to seem authentic as the reader is reading.)

If you are writing a story with a twist in the tail you may have to hold back on some details. Make sure the reader isn’t frustrated or disappointed by this, don’t suddenly introduce a new character in the last few lines as the murderer; the reader will find this unsatisfying. Never ever ever end with ‘…and it was all a dream.’

It was all a blurry dream… in general steer clear of dreams in your stories!

Plot is often the main spur which gets a reader reading. Make sure the action is consistent, make sure it is believable within the framework of your story, keep the action moving (even if it is a conversation, don’t be repetitive, don’t be boring, less is sometimes more.)

Use notes to yourself (bullet points if you like) to ensure your story makes sense. If you are writing a short story don’t lose the balance by including long explanations or lots of unnecessary detail. Keep to the main and most important points of your story.

There are certain things most plots contain:

  • The Events: what happens
  • The Reasons behind the events: Why it happens
  • The Triggers to the action: How it happens
  • The Extras: information to understand the story
  • The Complications; unexpected events which change the situation
  • The Climax: the exciting bits when everything changes, the turning point
  • The Solution – how it comes to an end, the outcome

You may have to do some research.

You the writer are in charge of the reader, how you organize your story, how you bring in the different elements, controls how the reader reacts and how successful your writing is. Sometimes you have to be hard on yourself and edit your work strictly, rewriting or cutting out even your favourite parts if they do not fit or they distort the story as a whole.

Don’t be afraid to get the shears out and do some heavy pruning – you can always replant later!


  1. PigLove

    This is fabulous! Have a ball with it! Mommy took a creative writing class in college. This class inspired her to begin writing. The big test at the end was a story that started with three hats. The teacher had three deep hats at the front of the class. One was filled with type of story (horror, drama, love, etc.). The second hat was filled with an item (dog, cat, love letter, knife, dagger, etc.). The third hat had names of characters – you picked two. The rest was up to you and your creative juices. It was the best class she ever took and so much fun! And it helped that her story won overall and went to finals 🙂 That’s my mommy! XOXO – Bacon


  2. Peter Bull

    There is a line spoken by one of the characters in Gorge R R Martin’s “A Dance with Dragons” (Book 5 of A Game of Thrones) that I think you would like:

    “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. A man who never reads lives only one”


    1. Lois

      Brilliant! I do like it, Peter! I’m only on Book 2 so I have lots of excitement to come… been deviated by “Rivers of London” by Ben Aaronovitch… which is curiously good fun!


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