Project three

Project 3 -page 72-exercise

1) Choose a short story, either one you’ve written, work in progress or a story you’ve read. Match the story onto the plot template.


Eurotrash by Irvine Welsh (The Acid House, 1995, Vintage)

1, Life in the beginning

Euan is staying with a friend in Amsterdam while trying to get off drugs.

  1. Trigger (to the sequence of actions

Euan goes into the city centre of Amsterdam to look for work and meets Chrissie in a bar where she is apparently in a relationship with the barman, Richard. He agrees to spend a day at the seaside with them and, although he despises her, decides to steal her away from Richard.

  1. Sequence of actions

Euan starts an affair with Chrissie, but as he straightens himself out and gets a job, he leaves Chrissie. He gets his own flat and meets a girl who he likes very much, and they become a couple. One night, they meet Chrissie on the street, and she regales Euan over the way he treated her. She leaves them in a very distressed state. Euan explains his relationship with her to his new partner.

  1. Climax

Richard goes to see Euan and tells him that Chrissie has committed suicide after the way that he treated her.  He tells him that if he cared anything for her, he would attend the funeral the following week in Jersey where she came from. Euan and his girlfriend go to Jersey and discover that Chrissie is actually Christopher and has spent his whole life estranged from his family because of his sexuality.

  1. Life at the end.

Euan goes back to Amsterdam and apologises to Richard for everything he has done. Now understanding Chrissie fully he feels a great sorrow instead of despising her and realises how judgemental he has been.



2) Use a character I have created and think of a trigger relevant to your character’s life at the beginning. Drop him/her into the template and take your character through the stages 1 to 5. Once you’ve got your trigger, you’ll probably find the rest flows. Write an outline and then a draft.


1, Life in the beginning

Susan lives alone and helps to look after her grandchildren (her abusive husband Tony left her several years ago when her own children were small).

  1. Trigger (to the sequence of actions

Susan is contacted and attracted to a man (Tom), who she knew as a teenager and starts a relationship with him.

  1. Sequence of actions

Tom slowly becomes more and more possessive. He doesn’t like her spending too much time with her family, but Susan thinks that she will change him in the end. She agrees to go on a holiday with him.

  1. Climax

On the first night of the holiday, he becomes very drunk and belligerent when she wants to phone home to say they have arrived safely and says that her previous husband probably had enough reason to abuse her. She decides to telephone her family and he locks her out on the balcony.

  1. Life at the end.

Susan calls her granddaughter, but as in the past, she finds herself unable to tell her granddaughter what is happening or to ask for help.


Writing Short Fiction

I am working my way through part two of WSF so I thought I would put some of my efforts up here so that I can either, get feedback or develop the pieces as I go along or use it as a learning tool as I progress.

Page 50 – Writing yourself 1.

I found a photograph from a few years ago. I’m the one on the left. I tried to see myself as a stranger might and asked myself the question. What do you see? I was now a character. I had to imagine a young businessman passing my character in the street.


It was fun to imagine myself as a complete stranger and trying to imagine what the character was thinking about and what would happen next.


Lydia paints on a bright smile, she’s trying to relax but realises she is holding on to Jenny a bit too tightly. She wonders what Jenny really thinks about her. After all, she was a good friend to Monica. Does she think what they’re doing is wrong? Peter seems relaxed enough, but they’re hardly going to turn against him after so many years of friendship. Lydia hopes the weekend passes without any uncomfortable incidents. She almost regrets coming. How can she expect them to approve when they know that Monica is at home, none the wiser. Do they feel as if they are betraying her too? What if someone recognises them and tells her?

Peter lowers the camera. ‘Lovely. You both look gorgeous.’

‘Good,’ Jenny says and wriggles out from my grip, rubbing her upper arm. ‘Now can we go and eat. I’m starving.’ She links up with Simon, and they walk ahead of us, along the little, cobbled streets of the village that lies on the edge of the tulip fields.

A young man in a suit is coming towards them. He glances at Lydia. She thinks he must know her. His eyes are looking her up and down, a whisper of a smile on his lips. He nods almost imperceptibly as he passes. She feels the compulsion to look back at him, and when she does; he is looking back at her. She frowns, wondering and then it hits her. A shiver runs down her spine as she turns away, pulling on Pete’s arm and quickening her step.

‘Let’s hurry. I’m absolutely famished,’ says Lydia, desperate to leave the man behind.

269 words


Page 55 exercise – Familiar strangers

  1. Familiar strangers are the people you recognise from everyday life but don’t interact with. Choose somebody, it could be the old man you see frequently at the bus stop, the young mum at the gym or the taxi driver you pass on your way to work each morning.Choose one vivid detail about this person. From one detail that strikes you, write the introduction to this character’s short story in a way that reveals much more about who they are. As you’re beginning to learn, plots can come from characters so start to think how a story might develop from this introduction. If it’s working, keep going and draft a story.

    Brian always wears a woollen Crombie, black with the collar turned up. It’s too long for his five-foot-one frame but it looks good with his black, leather gloves. He wears it when he knocks on all the doors in the village, selling poppies for The British Legion every year. He wears it to attend church with his wife every Sunday morning and he wears it to attend the coffee mornings at the village hall on the first Saturday of the month during the whole of autumn and winter.

    It was a typical November evening when Brian knocked on the door of the new couple who had just moved into the village.

    ‘Good evening,’ he said in his usual authoritative voice, looking up at the willowy young woman who answered the door. ‘I’m the designated poppy seller for the village and I wondered if I might persuade you to purchase one. Any amount you care to donate would be gratefully received.’

    ‘Ah. Yes. I’ll just get my purse,’ the young woman said and disappeared inside, almost closing the door on Brian.

    Not exactly welcoming, he thought. Still, when Sheila invites her to attend the next WI meeting, it’ll break the ice a little.

    Melanie came back to the door and unzipped her purse.

    ‘I can’t rattle my collection tin, I’m afraid,’ said Brian, coughing slightly and smiling up at her. ‘There are only notes in there at the moment.’

    Melanie raised her eyebrows and stared down at Brian. She didn’t fasten the zip on the coin pocket of her purse. In fact, she looked at the pound coin in her hand and popped it back in her purse. Brian widened his smile until Melanie drew out a fifty pence piece and popped it in the slot on the top of the collection tin. It thudded loudly as it hit the bottom. She then helped herself to a poppy from the tray that was securely fastened to a broad red ribbon and hanging around Brian’s neck.

    ‘Goodnight,’ she said and promptly closed the door in his face.


    ‘Well, I never,’ spluttered Brian before racing back down the path and slamming the gate behind him. He hurried to the large detached house next door. He had no idea what Bill and Jacqueline Brown would make of it but it was definitely his duty to raise their awareness of the sort of neighbours who had just moved in next door to them.

408 words

2. Now try a monologue as a way of getting to know this familiar stranger as a character. This is an excellent way to get into the head of the character. In the same way as you free write, don’t think about it too much, just write from your character’s head – as he/she waits for the bus, works out at the gym, or drives the taxi – and see what emerges.


Just wait until I get home and tell Sheila. Disgraceful really and to donate only fifty pence. That is not the spirit of generosity I expect from my fellow neighbours in this village. It most definitely will not do. I’m not entirely sure now that Sheila should invite the wretched woman to the next WI meeting if she was going to be this mealy-mouthed. She’d barely made any effort at all to speak to me. There’s no way Sheila should make her welcome after that.  No! I’ve a good mind to warn everyone in the village about her. I know…I’ll bring it up at the next parish council meeting.

Oh dear! She’s making me behave as abominably as she did. Perhaps I’m being a little hasty in my judgement. Now then, Brian. Have a word with yourself. Charity and all that. Must give her the benefit. It may be that she didn’t want to open her door to a stranger. I suppose that could be it. In all fairness, that’s exactly what I am to her, a stranger. She doesn’t actually know me from Adam.

That’s probably it. Still, I have to say, I didn’t like the way she looked down at me. It would have been better if she had stepped down on to the path instead of looming over me as if I was a child.

Be that as it may. I shall be charitable and forgive this first encounter. I’ll send a personal invitation to the next coffee morning in aid of the RNLI. Then we’ll see if she and her husband will deign to show their presence. Then we’ll know. Yes. Absolutely, we’ll know.

278 words

Revision and Redrafting

I took a piece of free-writing from part 2 and used it for the exercise in Part 6 of WFC course. Please, could you read and then offer comments as suggested at the end of the attached pdf file? All feedback gratefully received. I hope that some of what I have done will be useful to others on the course.I attached as pdf  because  copying and pasting a word document did not work as it deleted all indentations and highlights.

Thank you in advance



.Editing exercises from part Six

Moving on to part 3-Plotting and Structure

A new year, a new assignment. The course is getting so interesting but more involved and is quite a challenge. Assignment 2 went reasonably well and I got excellent constructive feedback from my tutor. No-one had talked about paragraph structure with me before when I have written a short story but once I started to rework my piece it made perfect sense and now my I’m moving forward with a bit more confidence.

Anyway, a bit less digressing and on with part 3.  This is all about Plot and Structure and my first exercise  was to plot out ‘Cinderella’ using some of the other characters and telling it from their point of view. This was a great exercise and it was easy to see how using a different point of view changes the structure of a plot significantly. With obvious character traits it was easy to imagine the Fairy Godmother concentrating on her ability to provide solutions  for problems using her magic skills. Her dilemma could be not being as good at magic spells as she thought, leaving with a fear of letting Cinderella down. The Stepmother’s story would be based on jealosy and greed and her need to be the centre of attention, learning the lesson and reforming by the end. The King’s story would concentrate his need to continue the family line with some fairly comic scenes of him trying to match make the prince with every princess in the land until Cinderella comes along.

Plotting out the stories has made me want to try wherever possible to plan and plot out future stories. In the past, I have always tended to do ‘clustering’ with words/phrases inspired by a single word or theme I have been given or have got from a newspaper, magazine etc. A picture tends to form in my head and then I start to freewrite longhand using several different ideas that have formed until one grabs me and I find that the writing starts to flow. Normally I would  then write 3 or 4 pages and then transfer to computer, editing as I type it up. This time I decided to try plotting the story at that point instead of leaping in and seeing where it took me.

Looking at the structure in a couple of the books I had read helped me to understand some of the reasons authors use structuring to , not only widen their audience, but to allow them better access to viewpoint. Viepoint plays a key role in storytelling and can sometimes be quite prohibitive when told from a single point of view. It makes me realise that multiple points of view can make what is happening take on  a more 3D and rounded picture which will draw the reader in, allowing them to live the story alongside the characters. It also helps with pace as a sudden change of viewpoint can slow things down and keep the reader in suspense about what is happening with the other character and allows the author to delay exposition. I’m not too sure how easy that will be to carry off without losing the interest of your reader.


Assignment Two – Exercise – Writing for different age groups

I am doing the ‘show, don’t tell’ exercise on page 40 of WFC and I’m really struggling with pin pointing age groups. The extracts have confused me and I was surprised by the age groups that they were aimed at. I thought I had worked it out but now I have tried the exercise, I am not so sure.

I aimed the first scene at 7+ and intended to do the second one for 9-12 years but I can’t seem to get started and am now wondering if my first attempt should be for that age group. What do you think?

Extract of a story.

Written for 7+

The tickling feeling in Snowball’s tummy would not go away. The other pigs watched her from a safe distance as they shuffled about in the muddy earth.

She turned to look at them, eyes wide, eyebrows raised, snout twitching. They snuffled and nodded their heads, urging her to go on. Snowball swallowed hard and took a deep breath before turning to face Napoleon again. His broad back was towards her and his snout was deep in the trough. She tried to ignore the smell of food as she cleared her throat.

‘Ah-hem.’ squeaked Snowball, her voice sounding higher than she had intended. ‘Could I have a word, Napoleon?’

Napoleon grunted loudly but carried on eating, chomping and slurping. His curly tail tried, without much success, to swat the fly that was crawling over his extremely large and hairy, black bottom.  Snowball wrinkled her nose at such a horrible sight. She was proud of being pure white and everyone had always commented on her beauty and trim figure.

Snowball tried again.

‘The others have had a meeting and…’ She hesitated as Napoleon’s head snapped up. ‘…and they have asked me to come and speak to you…about meal times.’

Napoleon grunted and stuck his snout back into the trough.

‘They…They don’t think it’s fair that you always eat all the best bits.’

Snowball looked back at the others again. All six pigs pretended to be looking for something in the ground. Snowball was beginning to feel very alone. Why on earth did I volunteer, she asked herself before trying once more.

‘Now look here, Napoleon. You can’t always have everything you want. I…’

Napoleon stopped eating. He slowly turned his great hulk of a body and faced Snowball. His long snout was covered in bits of food.

‘And who is going to stop me.’ He bellowed.

Snowball staggered backwards and nearly lost her balance in the ankle-deep mud. He had nearly made her fall and get her beautiful white coat dirty. How dare he, she thought.

‘We…We are.’ she squealed in anger.

She heard the others squeaking and grunting as they ran off in several directions. Now she really was alone.

‘Is that so?’ Napoleon asked, almost laughing out loud.

Snowball puffed her chest out.

‘Yes, that is so. From now on you must take your turn to eat like everyone else.’ She could hear her own voice getting louder. ‘We…I won’t let you bully us anymore.’

Snowball marched up to the trough. She held her head high and tried to keep her herself from slipping  and sliding in the gloopy mess. Her feet were making squelching noises as the mud sucked at her toes with every step.

She pushed passed Napoleon, hurting her soft shoulder as it caught the muscles of his side. Ignoring the pain, she pushed her face into the trough and bit down on a juicy apple core. Her mouth watered as it crunched in her jaws. A ripe banana, all black and sweet and mushy, found its way into her mouth and she giggled with delight. Forgetting her fear, she lifted her head and grinned at Napoleon.

‘Now this is what I call heaven.’ she said.

Napoleon stared at her. No pig had ever done that before. No other pig had ever challenged him. He didn’t know whether to bite her or join in the feast. Greed got the better of him. He moved up to her side and nudged her.

‘Move up. I want some banana.’ he grunted.

‘What’s the magic word?’ she asked, her eyes flashing at him, her snout curled into a snarl.

‘Please.’ he whispered not wanting the others to hear.

Assignment 2 – Exercise 2 – Writing for different age groups

Exercise – Assignment Two- Writing for different age groups



Paragraph Length  – Avg 36 words

Average number sentences per paragraph – 2-3

Word Length – 4-5 letters with occasional 6-7 letters

Use of colloquial words and exclamations – none

Perspective or viewpoint – Third person





Paragraph Length  – Avg 78 words

Average number sentences per paragraph – 5

Word Length – 5-7 letters with occasional 8-10 letters

Use of colloquial words and exclamations – none

Perspective or viewpoint – Third person




Private Peaceful 9+

Paragraph Length  – Avg 53 words

Average number sentences per paragraph – 4

Word Length – 5-6 letters with occasional 6-8 letters

Use of colloquial words and exclamations – none

Perspective or viewpoint – First person



Paragraph Length  – Avg 23 words

Average number sentences per paragraph – 3-4

Word Length – 6-7 letters with occasional 8-9 letters

Use of colloquial words and exclamations – bored x 2

Perspective or viewpoint – Third person


The Last Flight 12+

Valador pressed his face against Trojan’s muzzle and wrapped his arms around the broad neck. The tears almost froze as they ran down his cheeks. Trojan neighed and snorted, clouds of breath swirling and coiling in to the sharp cold blue sky. Valador had looked after Trojan for as long as he could remember. He couldn’t part with him after so many years.  How could his father be so cruel? Why Trojan? Why not one of the others? Surely the King would never know if they sent another one instead?

He already knew the answer. Trojan was the most valuable, the most coveted in all the land and destined to go to the King. His father would never betray the King. Why then did it feel so wrong?

The Royal Word Bringer had arrived having travelled all the way from the Citadel to bring an urgent message to his father only one time-turn ago.

‘Fidel, my loyal and brave guardian of the steeds. I send news that my beloved Javelin was mortally wounded in the skirmish against the dark warriors and I need a new battle mount to take his place. It is time that Trojan fulfilled his destiny and carried the King to victory as it was foretold. I pray that the Word Bringer and the few armed soldiers that accompanied him have managed to reach you so that they can bring Trojan back to me before all three moons have left the sky. ‘


Paragraph Length  – Avg 61 words

Average number sentences per paragraph – 4-5

Word Length – 6-7 letters with occasional 8-10 letters

Use of colloquial words and exclamations – none but several ‘made up’ words

Perspective or viewpoint – Third person

Assignment 1 – Project 3

I am currently reading Blood Ties by Sophie McKenzie.

The book is aimed at 12+ according to the book cover and should appeal to both boys and girls. The title sounds like it belongs to a ‘thriller’ but the silhouettes of a boy and girl encourages both genders to pick it up. The flashes of blue indicate a chase and therefore adventure and danger. The blurb on the back tells the reader there are two main characters, one male and one female.The book is not a stand alone project and has a follow on novel about the same two protagonists called Blood Ransom. The title catches the eye and suggests it is connected to Blood Ties. It encourages the reader to develop a loyalty to the main characters and therefore a wish for further books in the same series. The selling blurb on the back cover of the second book leaves the reader in no doubt that they will learn more about the same characters that were in Blood Ties.

The book is part of a trend to not only entertain both genders of young adults, but to bridge the gap between teens and adults and gain a wider audience. i think it would appeal to some adults because of the style it is written in. The author tells the story from two points of view in alternate chapters which gives the main characters a strong voice each and I found it easy to empathise and warm to both of them. The author manages to exit each chapter in a way that makes the reader asks questions and needs to read on to satisfy their curiosity.  The pace is fast throughout and the tension builds up as you move on through the plot.

Assignment 1 – Project 2 – Further Research

Another day out and about trying to do some research. My husband wanted to spend some book tokens so we went into Harrogate and called at Waterstones. I was armed with my notebook and headed for the children’s section where an assistant spent a good half an hour chatting to me and was extremely helpful. The shelf space was divided into a number of categories. Again, pre-school had a good space but instead of placing characters, toys and games separately, they were interspersed with relevant books on shelves labelled ‘Animals’ or ‘Things that go’ etcetera. Things that go were noisy books about machines and vehicles.

The age categories were split into ‘5-8′ and 9-12′ and 12+. The 9-12’ section, getting double the space of ‘5-8’, having 4 bookcases. There were also two table tops with books on ‘offer’ from both categories. The age categories were displayed differently. The younger age group had several book covers on show to attract readers whereas the 9-12 and over were shelved alphabetically by author. The most popular books in the 9-12 section at the moment is the ‘Tom Gates’ books by Liz Pichon. The covers give the impression of a school exercise book with lots of doodles and drawings and the theme is continued inside with lots of comic like scribbles and pictures. The assistant said that it appealed to most 9-12 year olds because it didn’t look as daunting as tackling a full length novel. She said it was the child’s equivalent of what an adult called ‘a light read’ and encouraged readers of lower ability to pick it up and ‘have a go’.

In the 5-8 age group, she said that one or two classics were still very popular, like The Magic Faraway Tree and other series by Enid Blyton. Paddington Bear had become very popular since the film was released last year. Fairy books were the main favourite with girls in this age category and boys looked for dinosaurs or monsters.

Both genders liked books in the ‘Adventure’ category and ‘Fantasy’ category. The author David Walliams was read by both genders. ‘Series’ books were very popular in all genres as children enjoyed reading about the same characters once they had bonded with them and had developed a need to remain loyal.

When asked about the Michael Morpurgo books in the 9-12 category she felt that they were aimed at the higher end of that category and they were often read by teens and young adults. She did qualify her statement by adding that it would always depend on the maturity of the reader in the end as some 9 year olds were particularly mature when it came to reading ability and preference.

From the bookshop, I went to the local library. The children’s section was in a separate room on a different floor to the main library. The librarian was very helpful and told me that lots of mums used the library before and after school and they had provided a large seating area to accommodate them. The pre-school children could access books in large, low boxes in and around the seating area. There didn’t appear to be any categorising.  The books on the shelves were only categorised on one shelf labelled ‘Early Readers’. The librarian said that all other books were shelved alphabetically by author. When asked which books were ‘borrowed’ most often she said that Enid Blyton was still very popular but other classics like The Wind in the Willows was rarely ‘out’. They didn’t have any Beatrix Potter books on the shelves which suggested that wasn’t asked for either. She said that ‘Adventure’ books were borrowed by both genders  and boy’s favourites included the ‘Beast Quest’ series by Adam Blade. (I haven’t read him but he’s now on my list.) Most girls chose the ‘fairy’ books.

I am sure in both visits that many more contemporary books are bought/borrowed but it is telling when both markets suggest very much the same  genres and authors when asked the same questions.

I wondered if the lack of commercial value and no requirement to sell the books as such made the library feel it wasn’t necessary to draw the children in by using the same strategies as the book shops? Is it perhaps a lack of funding that dictates these things. Libraries are being closed up and down the country. Is it because of access to e-books? Do many children prefer to read e-books? My seven and nine-year old grandchildren read physical books every day but they also like to listen to audio books together. Their favourite audio books at the moment happen to be Enid Blyton’s famous Five series. Mmm! I see a pattern forming.

Assignment 1 – Project 2

I visited the White Rose Book Shop in Thirsk yesterday. They have sections for all age categories in chikdren’sl books but also have spaces for promotions. They use the seasons to promote books and the window display was Autumn and Halloween. Books on foraging and colours and spooky themes were hung on broomsticks, laid on autumn leaves, hanging in spider webs etc.. . They covered a good range from picture books to educational to adult recipes, making sure they captured the widest audience.

The store has a cafe on the ground floor which is located towards the back of the shop. The tables and chairs were interspersed by wide square pillars that provided a perfect space for displaying themed books. One pillar was covered in Halloween books  with colourful and spooky covers aimed at young readers.

In the cafe there were several young mum’s and In full view of the diners with young children are six wide, floor to ceiling, bookshelves aimed specifically at pre-school children. The first shelves were filled with games and characters relating to the books on the subsequent five shelves. The other five were clearly marked at the top in large letters. ‘ First Books’  ‘Once Upon a Time’ ‘Stomp Stomp’  ‘Roar Roar’ and ‘Here come the dinosaurs’.  The shop had even provided an outdoor eating area with a Wendy House and a sand pit which completed the picture on what was their most lucrative market.

I was disappointed to find the age category books on the first floor where I didn’t meet another person apart from a mother taking a child for a nappy change in the facilities provided. This floor had five separate, floor to ceiling, bookshelves  which were split into ‘6-8 years’  ‘9-11 years’  ’11+ – A to Z of Fiction’ and ‘Young Adults’.  I wasn’t convinced with this space and felt it was not well sign-posted from downstairs.

The lady on the till said that they changed themes regularly so it will be interesting to go back in a month and see what is different. She also said that early years was the best seller although I didn’t get to find out any specific titles. She said the least popular was teenage fiction as “It’s very hard to get teenagers to read these days.”    I wondered if that was due to digital media, kindle, android etc. Is most reading by teenagers done on-line? A quick google when I got home reveal lots of links to articles on teenage reading habits. I need to decide which of these sites may have more dependable information before I take on board their comments but most seem to headline The decline in teenage readers.

I haven’t answered all my research questions yet but I feel as though I have made a good start.,  

Assignment 1 – Project I – Reflective thoughts

While researching childrens books online, I found that my search results kept bringing up what i considered to be ‘Adult’ books. e.g

Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean. M. Auel

Roots by Alex Haley

The Thornbirds by Colleen McCullough

These are all books I read in my twenties.

It took a while to realise that children’s book are categorised right up to the age of eighteen. Funny how I always think of children as being pre-teen. maybe it’s because my grandchildren are pre-teen at the moment. It started me thinking about HOW publishers classify books by age. It is mainly done for educational reasons at the outset to help children learn to read through not only appropiate words that meet school curriculums but also using pictures to enhance the storytelling. As a child gets older, the pictures are used less and the words become more important to increase vocabulary, paint the pictures in the mind. It seems that this is also the point where decisions are made about which words are appropriate for each age category.

I read Private Peaceful by Michael Morpurgo as my first set book. i borrowed it from my 9 year old grandson. I can’t believe it is for his age group. Perhaps it is my age that makes me think that QUOTE ‘ You want to get your nuts blown off, Peaceful?’  Does Michael Morpurgo decide on the age classification or is that the publisher’s job?  Looks like more research to be done.