Forty members from twenty U3As met in York for a wonderful day exploring the “Basics of Creative Writing”. Speakers Marcia Humphries & Jo Brooks made the long journey from Porthcawl U3A in Wales & on behalf of all attendees I can say that their time & effort was greatly appreciated. Their audience consisted of both beginners & more established writers & their programme achieved the balance between introducing the basic elements & reminding the more experienced of factors they may have forgotten.
Marcia who is the National Subject Adviser on Creative Writing, began by outlining the ingredients vital to story writing, including plot, character, conflict & resolution. Using everyday scenarios & amusing anecdotes, Marcia showed that plots are all around us; that people make plots. This led neatly into a discussion about character, that building a CV of your character helped develop them & that characters can influence how the plot develops.
Jo who leads one of three Writing for Pleasure groups at Porthcawl U3A, outlined “point of view”, the pros & cons of first, second & various versions of third person ( a surprise to many), & how a change of tense can influence the point of view.
We then came to the hoary subject of “showing not telling”. Again Marcia’s superb narrative & examples were illuminating. You do not have to explain everything; make the reader work! Use the senses, remember that adjectives tell, so use them well & sparingly, whilst verbs show, making things vivid, moving the story on.
Jo introduced the element of conflict, crucial to bringing tension & spice into writing. She explained how adding dialogue can make a great difference to the
pace of the piece. We were introduced to the many types of conflict which can involve politics, war & relationships whilst hard hitting dialogue can replace a thousand words; again showing & not telling.
After a lovely lunch we had the chance to explore both conflict & dialogue in one of the many exercises Marcia & Jo had sprinkled into programme. Members were encouraged to read out their pieces, which widened everybody’s understanding & captured that part of the programme whilst still fresh.
Marcia then stressed the importance of editing, pruning & revising Again her examples were glaring in their validity, an exercise on a piece of some twenty lines, in one case, being reduced to about four lines of absolute clarity, exposing the embarrassing clutter of the original.
Our thanks to Marcia & Jo for thoroughly professional & enjoyable programme. We left with renewed inspiration & determination, due to the many facets they had managed to convey so concisely & clearly.
Thanks also to Lorna Pope & her YAHR team for superb organisation throughout. I had nine members of my “team” in attendance, the noise on the way home was a tribute to the day.