Start writing fiction: intro and week 1

Start writing fiction on FutureLearn, from the Open University, “helps you to get started with your own fiction writing, focusing on the central skill of creating characters”. Eight weeks starting on 28 April, 3 hours/week. Twitter: #FLfiction14 (790 in past 30 days, 152 in past 7) | Facebook group | another one | course map | taking it further.

Learning objectives:

  • listen to established writers talk about how they started writing
  • consider the rituals of writing and the importance of keeping a journal
  • learn how to develop your ideas and the importance of reflecting on writing and editing
  • hear other writers talking about their approaches to research
  • consider ways of turning events into a plot
  • have the opportunity to review and comment on the work of fellow writers, and receive peer feedback on your own story
  • learning the importance of reading as a writer and how to receive and respond to feedback

Two weeks behind. The fiction/character side may feel of less interest, however a place can also be a character…plus the rituals stuff may be helpful, as while I can blog well enough the space for sustained writing eludes me. We’ll see – an issue is probably that I’ve not yet established what it is I want to write within the experimental literary non-fiction/translation space (aka pseud’s corner…). Posts here are strictly about the MOOC, any writing etc will be over on A/drift in DK.

Notes from week 1 below. Vids don’t seem to be a key part of the course, but otherwise so much so FutureLearn – some pages have 6K+ comments (total comments of more than 20K in the first week), that’s not a discussion forum, doesn’t work for me. But there’s lots of bloggage, as you might expect (see below), and a rather different crowd, so other forms of interaction may be possible.

Week 1: starting to write fiction

Why do you want to write? What are your motivations and reasons for wanting to write? How much will you mix fact with fiction – what elements of your life experience and personal circumstance do you think might influence your writing?

Make the best of everything you already have and know – your unique ‘material’ and ‘equipment’:

  • your experiences (including your reading experiences)
  • your memories and personal history
  • your feelings and desires
  • your language, imagination, observations and ideas

You will develop best as a writer if you recognise that writing can’t usually be done quickly, it’s something you need to live with and return to again and again.

Start a writer’s notebook to collect facts and fictions, observations from everyday life, things you find fascinating or amusing and things you imagine. Start seeing the world as a writer. Your notebook, or journal, should be with you at all times so that you can jot down anything that strikes you as interesting or unusual, and anything you might want to remember to come back to later. Your notebook will become a secret testing ground, for trying out ideas, phrases, mini-stories and scenes, bits of dialogue.

Taking note of details of the appearance of people who take your interest should become a habit – people you see on the street, or in other venues.

It’s important to review the details and ideas you collect in your notebook. This should become a habit – a way of seeing the world. Always reflect on the notes you have taken in your journal. When reflecting on your notes, highlight any details you find especially interesting and to which you might want to return, to work on in more detail later.

While it’s not about tools or nice notebooks I do need something separate from my blogs and their haul of draft posts as a ‘notebook’ – time to check out Fargo. Flirted briefly with the idea of longhand, but it’s not going to happen.

Exercise: writing (and reading) fact and fiction

Trying to write both fact and fiction can help you realise the relationship between the two. Write a paragraph (50 to 100 words) containing one fact and three fictitious elements. You can write about yourself, about your interests, about history – about anything you like. Then try the reverse – write a paragraph containing three facts and one fictitious element.

Can you spot where the fictions are and where the facts are? Is there anything that distinguishes the fictitious elements? Are there common elements that you and your fellow writers write about as ‘facts’? Do any of these passages suggest stories to you?

Fiction thrives on elements that are factual or seem factual; it traditionally contains much information which appears real and normal. The fun thing is that the truthful things are often the elements that sound most invented. But common factual details are of use in stories too. The most mundane details from everyday lives can provide the most fruitful source for stories. And sometimes the mundane mixed with the fantastical can be amusing too.

Exercise: developing a character

Review what you’ve collected in your notebook to find a character and develop them further. Write a short character sketch – no more than 200 words – in which you concentrate on appearance and any particular mannerisms you noted.

Add any elements – for instance, details of appearance or behaviour – which you think might bring the character to life for your reader.

  • consider the ways in which your reader might be getting involved in the invention and imagining of your characters
  • check whether you are using third or first person narration
  • your reader will always have to participate in the imagining of your characters

From the quiz: investigating characters:

  • What does George Orwell use to convey the character of Flory in the passage from Burmese Days? – a description of his personality | a physical description | gets other characters to talk about him
  • In the extract from Burmese Days, is there any insight into Flory’s psychology? – some insight | no insight | more insight into the narrator |  insight into both narrator and character

Week 1 bloggage:


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s