Monthly Archives: June 2016

6-Week Summer Writing Class

summerJoin this short 6-week summer writing class to:

  • Progress rapidly in your novel
  • Have loads of fun
  • Write in a supportive and friendly environment

Beyond-the-Lamppost Classes are small and intimate – never more than 8-10 per session. 2 SPACES STILL AVAILABLE

Here’s what one of my new writers has to say about my classes:

“Bev creates an atmosphere in which you can generate your own best work.  She makes anything seem possible. It’s a gift, a presence she has. “– Sue S.

SUMMER 2016 – 6-week Writing Session for Beginners and Advanced

Crafting Your Novel – Wednesday afternoons Aug. 3 – Sept. 14 (no class Aug. 10)

Fee: $80 for 6 classes– To register and for location details, email beverleyburgessbell@gmail.com

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FALL 2016 – 12-week Writing Classes

Creative Writing 101 – Tuesday afternoons Sept 27 – Dec. 13 from 12:30 – 3:30 p.m.
Crafting Your Novel – Wednesday afternoons Sept. 28 – Dec. 14 from 12:30 – 3:30 p.m.
Crafting Your Novel – Thursday afternoons Sept. 29 – Dec. 15 from 12:30 – 3:30 p.m.

Fee: $160 for 12 sessions – To register and for location details, email beverleyburgessbell@gmail.com

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Adding Conflict to Your Story

conflictWithout conflict, a story would be a lovely collection of thoughts and words but going nowhere.

What is Conflict?

Conflict is a problem that faces the main character. How he or she solves this conflict is what makes your story juicy and interesting.

Conflict can be about multiple things. It can be about something physical as in having to give up a job, a house, a family, a lover. Or it can be about what a character values and then is taken away from them. How will they get it back?

 Such things as:cash

  • Money
  • Friendship
  • Marriage
  • Honesty
  • Eco-friendly practices
  • Veganism

Things of value don’t always have to have a monetary value. It can be someone’s good name, love and a good marriage as in Pride and Prejudice or the prospect of never going hungry again as in The Hunger Games.

Ways to Create Conflict for Your Character

  • Give him a clear objective. Then something or someone has to get in the way big time to prevent him from achieving that goal.
  • Macro and micro – by that I mean your main character has a macro goal – something big, but he must also have micro goals to get him to his intended objective and that will help you to increase tension throughout each chapter.
  • Failure is your best option – your character must fail repeatedly, then get up and try to obstaclessurmount the huge obstacles that block him every way he turns.
  • Let disagreements and misunderstandings The more confusion you can create for your character the better the conflict and the story will be.
  • Make the situation worse. Whatever is happening, just make it ten times worse. Whatever is happening must happen at the worst possible time in the worst possible way.
  • What does the person risk? Make sure it is terrible.

Readers are not interested in happy, boring lives. They want something to happen, they want drama. They want to see their hero conquer all odds and win. There has to be a big change from beginning to end.

Do you have conflict in your novel?

Setting and Location of Your Novel

alienOnce you have your unique idea for a story, you have to decide on setting and location. Where should your story take place? This is dependent on many factors, not least of which is what type of novel or short story you are writing.

  • Fantasy – you’ll need to build your own world with its own set of rules
  • Mystery/Romance/Contemporary etc. can be set in our own world … but where, and when?

Crafting Your Novel – Wednesday afternoons Aug. 3 – Sept. 14 (no class Aug. 10) For more details email beverleyburgessbell@gmail.com

Setting your story in a city you know well and love always makes sense. You’ll be able to bring it to life and people who know it will be able to recognize it – always thrilling to recognize familiar landmarks in a book you’re reading.

Here’s a little exercise for those of you interested in trying your hand at writing. Choose one of the following prompts and write 250 words or one page about it. Let your imagination run riot. Send it to me if you like and I’ll tell you what works and what doesn’t. The worst thing you can do is think too deeply here. Enjoy the process of thinking anything is possible. If you enjoy writing the exercise, try the other prompts as well. You never know – you just might end up writing a short story or novel about it.

  1. A castle filled with ghostscreepy castle
  2. Your home when you were six
  3. A major city like New York or Los Angeles seen through the eyes of someone who has only lived in a small village or hamlet
  4. Earth if you were an alien
  5. The ocean as seen through the eyes of a mermaid

Instead of writing straight narrative description, try to look at the setting and location through the eyes of the person discovering the beauty or strangeness of the scene. Try and become the person, seeing the scene through that character’s eyes. 

Describing Characters

godfatherUnforgettable characters are – well, difficult to forget. Some such characters that come to mind are The Godfather, Harry Potter, Gollum or Dracula. But instead of trying to create memorable characters, many writers get obsessed with convoluted plots in their novels and short stories. What we need to remember is readers rarely remember entire stories. What they do remember are unforgettable characters.

Crafting Your Novel – Wednesday afternoons Aug. 3 – Sept. 14 (no class Aug. 10) For more details email beverleyburgessbell@gmail.com

Here are three very different examples of character descriptions. In the second piece – A Clockwork Orange – the main character uses made-up words. Nevertheless, we can understand what he means. It still evokes sharp images in our brain, and that’s the essence of what a character description strives for.

Allow the reader to visualize the person described, not as a cardboard cut-out, but as a flesh and blood person.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowlinghagrid
“If the motorcycle was huge, it was nothing to the man sitting astride it. He was twice as tall as a normal man and at least five times as wide. He looked simply too big to be allowed, and so wild — long tangles of bushy black hair and beard hid most of his face, he had hands the size of trash can lids, and his feet in their leather boots were like baby dolphins.”

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess clockwork
“These sharps were dressed in the height of fashion too, with purple and green and orange wigs on their gullivers. Each one not costing less than three or four weeks of those sharps’ wages, I should reckon, and make-up to match (rainbows round the glazzies, that is, and the rot painted very wide). Then they had long black very straight dresses, and on the groody part of them they had little badges of like silver with different malchick’s names on them-Joe and Mike and suchalike.”

Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
“He was a funny-looking child who became a funny-looking youth — tall and weak, and shaped like a bottle of Coca-Cola.”

The most important asset that a writer has is her sense of observation. Always carry a notebook and pencil and sketch out the eccentrics you encounter in your daily life. Sit at a café and people-watch. You’ll be surprised how much research and material you will collect.

Example: A few weeks ago, my husband and I were walking down Bloor when we almost bumped into a man with a white stick tapping it as if he was blind. He was clearly not. He kept shouting as if he was at a carnival “Nickel, dime or dollar, spare your nickel, dime or dollar.” If anyone gave him anything he’d say, “See you tomorrow.”

Real life is full of such oddballs that you can shoehorn and create unforgettable people to populate your novel or short story.

Writing a Killer Short Story

short storiesA short story is – well, short. And many new writers believe that short stories are easy to craft. They’re not easy to write, mainly because it’s difficult for new writers especially to condense their thoughts into such few words. The good thing about short stories is they’re short. They’re a great way to practice getting your ideas down on paper and there are all sorts of contests you can send them into. If you like writing to prompts, many competitions ask for stories based on their specific prompts. Click here for a list of short story competitions.

2016 Fall Writing Classes for Beginners and Advanced

Creative Writing 101 – Tues. afternoons Sept. 27 – Dec. 13 in Oakville 
Crafting Your Novel – Wed. afternoons Sept. 28 – Dec. 14 in Oakville 
Crafting Your Novel – Thurs. afternoons Sept. 29 – Dec. 15 in Oakville 

For more details email beverleyburgessbell@gmail.com

How Long is a Short Story?

Most short story competitions ask for submissions to be somewhere between 1,000 and 5,000 words. Less than 500 words is considered flash fiction and is, arguably, even more difficult to write well.

How to Write a Killer Short Story

  • You’ll want to begin with a fantastic and unique idea, of course. You want to tell a story, not give a lot of information. Once you have that, follow these guidelines:
  • Do not lead up to your story. Jump into it almost toward the end
  • Like a novel, it must start with a pop – a hook that captures the reader immediately
  • Let the story unfold through description, dialogue and action
  • Action is important, or the reader is left wondering what is going on
  • Readers like to root for the main character (sometimes the villain) but usually the main character – so make that person appealing
  • With such a short amount of time, every sentence must count towards revealing something about the character or advancing the action of the story
  • When horrible things happen to your characters – that’s good. The worse – the better for your story. It helps to build character for your character
  • Unless you have a twist at the end (which is always good) let the reader know what is going on – you just don’t have enough time to play coy
  • Make the ending satisfying

Do you prefer writing short stories or novels?