Beginnings, middles, ends… my workshop (i)

I was fortunate enough to be invited to give a workshop for Weston-super-Mare Literary Festival for the second year. This year I decided to think about beginnings, middles and ends; there were about twenty people and we really had a very good afternoon – I hope they all enjoyed it, I certainly did.

It’s no surprise to know I started off with beginnings, asking where and how should a story begin?

  • with a description of the setting?
  • Once upon a time?
  • by explaining to the reader what’s going to happen?
  • at an exciting bit?
  • by introducing the characters?
  • with some action?
  • at the beginning?

Why does it matter how the story begins? It matters because you want someone to read your story, you want them to be sucked into what you’ve written! We then looked at the opening lines of half a dozen books, some more well-known than others, and discussed what we thought of them and whether they would seduce us.

We moved on to thinking about the Introduction, opening or beginning the story and looked at different options:

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

Hooking the reader!! That’s what a writer needs to do!

We discussed whether a story should be told in the order of events within it, and we looked at two very simple tales:

  1. Two young children went to get a drink; one of them fell over and tripped the other child so they both ended up on the ground.
  2. A young boy was a well-known bully and delighted in being cruel to animals. He thought it great fun to throw a cat into some water. Luckily another boy saw what had happened and rescued the cat.

I don’t know if you guessed, but these little narratives are what happens in two nursery rhymes, Jack and Jill, and Ding Dong Bell. How we used these two simple stories will be revealed tomorrow!


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