‘Write what you know.’ Really? Reply

This week we’re looking at selecting material for writing fiction. Writers are often told to write what they know, but what does that advice mean? The video ends with a writing exercise to practice the skill of writing what we don’t know – or what we’ve only just learned about.

Zoe Heller on ‘Write what you know’
Nathan Englander on ‘Write what you know’

Writing exercise: Choose from the following list of places somewhere you’ve never been and write a detailed description of what a character experiences as she or he travels through this location.

The harbour of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Aabpara Market in Islamabad, Pakistan
The Cuillin Mountains on the Isle of Skye, Scotland
The Riverfront in St Charles, Missouri, United States
Brick Lane in London, England
Namakunde, Angola
Dalton Post, Yukon, Canada
Keleti Railway Station, Budapest, Hungary

If you want to make it harder, change the date; for instance, try to describe the location as it would have been in 1982 or 1956.
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Tone it down, writers: accuracy versus hyperbole Reply

Below this video there’s a passage full of over-stating – if you’re looking for a writing exercise, have a go rewriting it replacing the over-stated descriptions with something more subtle – with a true and accurate descriptions of the facts.

The smell of the pub was so vile that I nearly gagged. The noise was deafening and puddles of beer sloshed around the floor. Near the bar a group of nearly-naked women, their skirts like belts, screamed so loudly I thought glasses might shatter. I fought my way through the stench of cheap perfume and leant on the crumbling bar. The barman, a humungous knuckle-dragging lout, grudgingly poured me a beer and crashed it onto the decrepit bar, spilling most of the liquid over my feet. As soon as I sipped the beer I thought I was going to be sick. One of the women must have seen me wincing because her inch-thick layer of makeup cracked as she cackled to her cronies.

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Writing stories: conflicts, objectives, & impediments Reply

Happiness is great, unless you’re writing a story. For a plot to exist, there has to be some conflict. And conflict arises when characters with objectives encounter impediments. This video introduces an exercise to help writers focus on conflict, objectives, and impediments.

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Precious words: an exercise in concision for writers 2

Words are precious! Here are some thoughts on editing and trying to be grateful for every word you can cut.

A narrative in need of shortening: The story of Jimmy and his brother in 500 words

Suggested solution: The story of Jimmy and his brother in 33 words

Here’s a link to a useful online resource to help authors practice writing concise sentences.
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