Beginnings, middles, ends… my workshop (iii)

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

As you can guess, I started with beginnings, and moved on to middles – a story can have a cracking start, and dramatic and satisfying ending, but become like porridge in the middle… We looked at a few simple stories, those of the children Jack and Jill who went up the hill, at the poor cat who ended up in a well, the boy dressed in blue/called Blue/was blue/was an alien who fell asleep when he should have been looking after animals – and the poor medic who got wet travelling to Gloucester. Ways to avoid porridgy middles can be thinking about::

  • the events: what happens
  • the reason behind the events: why they happen
  • 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

Last of all, we moved on to endings, how to finish a story with something of a bang rather than a drivelling whimper and what makes a good ending, a satisfying ending

  • … something which ties up all the loose ends
  • …something which allows the reader to follow the story in their imagination after ‘The end’
  • …ending which isn’t a whimper, a dribble, a damp squib
  • …ending at the right time in the story, not too soon or too late
  • …an ending which is neither too abrupt, nor too drawn out
  • … something which is unexpected but possible within what has already happened
  • … a clear, believable, understandable ending
  • ending you choose, not the reader by dying of boredom halfway through
  • …never, never, never, ever end with ‘and I woke up and it was all a dream’

So, we wondered, how can you achieve your perfect ending?   Coming to the end of a story is not the end for  a writer – work needs to be done.

  • read it, reread it, re-reread it, etc., reading it aloud
  • having someone read it, or read it aloud to you
  • read it in a different medium
  • read it backwards – if it’s a story in parts, read the last part, then the penultimate, ante-penultimate etc.
  • leave it for a week and come back to it
  • cross out, delete, substitute, improve!
  • review, rewrite, rework, rearrange

The session came to a close, and I had one last message – make the last words count, leave your readers feeling pleased they read the story!

So that was the end of my workshop for 2019… I do hope I get invited back next year, I already have some ideas!

Here is a link to my books:


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