Writing Courses

July 29, 2019

A friend recently asked me if I could recommend any creative writing courses.  I have never signed up for one myself.  There are so many it is hard to advise anyone where to start.  There are plenty advertised online and several academic courses run by Universities and colleges, one of the most famous being the MA in Creative Writing run by Malcolm Bradbury at the University of East Anglia in the 1970s and attended by both Ian McEwan and Kazuo Ishiguro.

I dabbled in writing fiction in my teens and studied various forms of biology at technical colleges and University up until middle age so I felt I knew how to write basic English and had no pressing need to follow a writing course.  But I have attended writing workshops and found them useful in gaining tips has they helped with character development and overcoming writer’s block.  Where they really come into their own is in meeting fellow authors and learning about the challenges they have faced in the course of their writing life.

Writing fiction is a solitary endeavour and to swap experiences with those who follow the same path is invaluable and so I recommend those setting out on a fiction writing career to join a local writers group.

Keith Jahans


Minor characters can play an important part in novels

January 3, 2013

Bit actors seem insignificant in films.  They are largely there to fill in and help the stars pass from one piece of action to another by such means as selling them a plane ticket or serving them with food.  In novels they can serve a similar function but in some cases they can come to an Author’s aid by resolving a tricky situation with the plot.

This happened to good effect in Peatmore Press’s novel, “Cogrill’s Mill”.  Here the author brings back a minor character, Miranda Flit who has been removed from the narrative for some time, to help bring a satisfactory resolution to the story.

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There is a tremendous temptation for the author to go back and build up the character’s role in the story particularly if he or she has helped him or her out of a jam.  The author can become overly fond of the character, maybe more so than of the hero and heroine.  But this is a bad idea.  In film a minor actor can steel the picture from the star but for the author to let this happen a novel is a mistake.

However, it can be rewarding to develop such minor characters outside the story by letting them help promote the book.  In this way the author is made to feel that their creation has not been wasted.

In Cogrill’s Mill a mediocre poet, Frank Witterworth, expounds on the virtues of the book in a mock celebrity interview on a chat show in a video trailer.

Frank video capture
In the same way temptress, Roxy Russell, is used to provide eye candy for the video promotion of the crime thriller, “Victim of Compromise.”
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In Peatmore’s latest novel, “Gifford’s Games”, the hero’s father comes into his own at the end of the story and indeed the end of the promotion video.

Minor characters are indispensable tools but they must be used wisely.

Cogrill’s Mill, Victim of Compromise and Gifford’s Games are available from www.peatmore.com
These photographs, with the exception of that of Frank Witterworth, were provided by http://dreamstime.com

 


Character Names

August 26, 2010

Choosing names for characters can be a chore for any fiction writer.  There are many limitations which come into play.  They must not be relatives or close friends in case any of these feel you are writing about them.  Even remote acquaintances might take offence.

A good novelist will take traits observed from people encountered in all walks of life.  If successful the reader will know or have met someone just like them but they must never think that that character is them.  A good trick to use when stuck for a name is to watch film or TV credits then take a first name that might fit and mix them with a different surname

The protagonist is the most difficult of all to conjure up.  He or she should be easily identifiable to reader and author so that they should care what happens to them.  It is no wonder that the writer puts so much of himself in his central character even when that character is the villain.


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