Tools for Storytelling
This online course (10 topics) follows on from Finding Your Voice but can also be undertaken by new students who are sufficiently advanced. This practical course shows how you can create fully rounded characters that come alive on the page and inhabit authentic worlds. It covers the crucial aspect of point of view and the development of plot and structure. The course is rounded off with a close look at revision and publishing and is vital for anyone who aims to write compelling fiction. Students who are already working on a novel or novella will have the option of submitting an extract of their work that will allow focus on the relevant topic. Students can work in their own time, at their own pace and will be given set exercises and peer and tutor feedback in a relaxed and supportive atmosphere online. The course is designed to take a maximum of 5 months to complete. Extensions beyond six months can be granted by arrangement.
Students can start anytime from the beginning of February.
Fees $550 payable by start of the course. Previous Creative Writing Dunedin students who have completed an eight week course will be given a $125 discount.
Tools for Storytelling Programme: 2018
Topic One: Story Structure
In this topic we look at the need for story. I believe that the purpose of reading fiction, memoirs, and biography in particular enables us to consider meaning and motivation. We are exposed to lives we have not led ourselves and this often leads to greater compassion and tolerance of the human race. We have learnt the story of another life and how one thing leads to another, resulting in tragedy or comedy or something in between.
Topic Two: Conflict and the Character’s Journey
This week we will look at the role conflict plays in fiction, primarily in maintaining the reader’s attention. And let’s be honest, the writer’s interest as well. Why are there no newspapers based on feel-good stories? Basically because it’s not interesting. Trouble is interesting and all stories are based on trouble. Note the conflict can be internal or external. We also explore the hero’s journey and how this fits into the structure of a novel. What does this mean? If you were to think about your own life in terms of a journey, could you sum it up in a sentence that would be represented in terms of a journey?
Topic Three: Characterisation
In this topic we look at the vital storytelling work of creating characters. Where do they come from and how do you make them walk off the page and into the hearts of readers? Remember your readers do not have to like your characters but they do need to be interested enough in their journey to keep reading.
Topic Four: Dialogue Part One
This topic focuses on dialogue. Some people have a natural ear for dialogue and find it easy. Other students need a bit of help to get to grips with some of the techniques, mainly making it sound real, even though dialogue in fiction is usually shorter and leaves out a lot of the commonplace small talk that we have every day. The how are you’s etc. Dialogue in fiction serves a number of different purposes, as the last page of the workbook explains.
Topic Five: Dialogue Part Two
In this topic we look in a little more depth at dialogue and characterisation. We will look at the internal view of characters versus the external view. Most of us are relatively skilled at interpreting subtext, i.e. saying something with an underlying tone or message, especially when it comes to our nearest and dearest but when it comes to putting it in the mouths of our characters without the help of facial expressions, gestures or tone it is a little more difficult to convey. We also explore using dialects and slang and irony, all useful tools in our writers’ toolbox.
Topic Six: Narrative Viewpoint: Part One
In Topic Six we consider point of view or viewpoint. It’s one of my favourite aspects of writing. The first decision a writer must make, before the first sentence is put down is person. Deciding who speaks. Third and second person stories are told by an author. First person stories are told by a character. Selecting who you want to tell the story gives the writer a great deal of power and can make a huge difference as to how the story is received by the reader.
Topic Seven: Narrative Viewpoint: Part Two
Looking at further aspects of narrative viewpoint we show how you can use it to manipulate the distance between readers and characters. Who is telling the story to whom and in what form? How much do they know? And are they telling the truth?
Topic Eight: Creating The World and Time
This week we look at creating a setting for your story. Some writers including myself are not so interested in description, preferring to concentrate instead, on what’s going on in the minds of their characters. However I am aware I have to go about making a world for my characters a little more deliberately than writers to whom it comes naturally, as without a setting for your characters to live in, it would be hard for readers to visualise and believe in them.
We also look at how you treat time in fiction, which is slightly more complicated than you might think. A story or a novel covers a certain amount of time. It may be a few seconds in a short, short story, a day over hundreds of pages as in Ulysses or almost a century as in Anthony Trollope’s, Barchester Chronicles. In the workbook I have included extracts from David Lodge and Lan Samantha Chang.
Topic Nine: Revision
In Revision we explore one of the most important skills a writer can develop, the art of revision. Why is it so important? Simply that when you are trying to get down the story, you don’t always get the right word, or the right tense or any number of factors that go into writing. Once you have the story down it is time to go back and really read what you have written. Admittedly some writers work slowly and methodically the first time and therefore don’t need to do much revising, but the majority of writers do need to rewrite. But as as many writers including myself say, revision is one of the pleasures of writing. Think of your story, or novel as being like a statue, you have carved the basic shape but now comes the refining and shaping your work into something beautiful.
Topic Ten: Where to From Here?
In this final topic we look at the rapidly changing world of publishing and the various distinctions between self-publishing and being published by a main stream publisher. We look at options for electronic publishing and how to approach publishers and agents. Primarily though, my main message is that you write because you love to. Making money is a bonus but is not necessary for feeling successful. Writing well is a reward in itself.