Welcome to our March edition of #WriteCBC. I hope you’re ready to be inspired by our latest writing challenge! If you haven’t taken part in a #WriteCBC competition before, we’re excited to welcome you to our writing community – and you can quickly get up to speed by reading this blog with information about how to play. It’s a lot of fun, and you might just win a free place on one of our six-week online writing courses.
This month’s special guest is the wonderful Tasha Harrison. Tasha studied on our Writing YA & Children’s Fiction course in 2016 and her debut middle grade comedy story Clementine Florentineis out now. It's extremely fitting that Tasha is setting this month's task as today is World Book Day, a day to celebrate children's books and getting children reading! Her tip and task will help you write in a way that engages your reader – whether they're young or old.
Don't write what you think other people want to hear. Don't try to write in someone else's style. Be brave and just be yourself. And have fun!
Writing in an unselfconscious way can be harder than it sounds – but leaning into your own writing style, experimenting and having fun can pay off drastically in the finished result. Readers can often tell when you're affecting or imitating a certain style. Embracing your own ‘voice’ will set you free and ultimately help to immerse the reader in your narrative, as it will feel less contrived and more organic. Shedding pretence is a great skill for fiction writers to hone, particularly if you want to connect with younger readers.
This short extract from Tasha’s novel Clementine Florentine is a brilliant example of embracing the fun without compromising storytelling. This section is taken from the part of the story where Clementine's dad is paying tribute to the family’s late goldfish, Mr Miyagi, using Elton John's ‘Candle in the Wind’ as inspiration:
Though I never knew you that well
I hope that you enjoyed yourself
With your treasure chest and shells
You were such a legend
Never once gave up exploring
Never once complaining
That your life was very boring
And it seems to me you lived your life
like a goldfish in a bowl
Never knowing where to swim to
in a world so small
And I wish I could've foreseen
how much my heart would ache
When your candle burned out long before
Your bumper pack of flakes
Clementine Florentine is full of funny poems from the perspective of different characters as they deal with various challenges. This makes sense for the story, which is all about navigating changing family dynamics, finding your voice and expressing your creativity – and ties in nicely with the main character’s identity as a poet.
This extract leads us on perfectly to Tasha’s task, which is focused on finding the humour in less-than-ideal situations.
Humour can be a great way to help readers engage and empathise with your characters. Write a funny scene, limerick or haiku about an embarrassing or awkward moment.
Comedy works best when there’s a balance of light and dark. Think about the above extract and how the grief of losing a beloved pet is offset by the ridiculousness of holding a funeral for a goldfish. This humour is then amplified through the parody version of 'Candle in the Wind'.
Here are a few prompts to help you generate your awkward/embarrassing situation:
- Overhearing something you shouldn’t have
- Mishearing someone
- Being clumsy in public (falling over, spilling coffee, etc.)
- Cases of mistaken identity
- Forgetting something or someone’s name
- Running late
- Entering the wrong room
- Inappropriate laughter
If you’re feeling brave enough you could even draw on inspiration from your real life and write about something embarrassing that’s happened to you!
The way that characters react in uncomfortable situations will help your reader get to know them – and relate to them. As the old adage goes, to err is human.
When characters are vulnerable there’s a great potential for comedy – but remember to balance this with empathy. There are countless examples of beloved characters using self-deprecation to great comedic effect – from Miss Bates in Jane Austen’s Emma to Chandler Bing in Friends. Be careful though, as humour can quickly turn vicious, and this task is about having fun and shedding the self-consciousness of ‘serious’ writing.
For this #WriteCBC task you can choose the form you’d like to explore your awkward/embarrassing scenario in. We want to read a comedic prose mini-scene, or if you’re feeling inspired by Clementine Florentine, we’d love to read a short, funny poem.
Please do share your comedy mini-scenes or poems by tweeting us (@cbcreative) – we can’t wait to smile and laugh alongside your characters!
This month’s winner is… Nelly James @NellyJa04587662
When I was really tiny my mum would always shout,
there's leaves and twigs stuck in your hair, what's that all about?
I travelled to the moon I’d say, and wrestled with a shark.
The only reason I came back is I'm afraid of the dark.
We love these nostalgic rhyming couplets. Nelly has perfectly captured the innocence and imagination of childhood. The final line reveals the funny juxtaposition of imagined bravery (wrestling sharks) and the real fear of the dark, something that most of us remember well from our own childhoods.
Congratulations! Nelly has won a free place on the six-week creative-writing course of her choice.
Well done to our runners-up!
Steve Warner @SJWarner3 and Craig Young @craig_young_uk have both won a £50 discount to be used on the six-week creative writing course of their choice.
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to claim your prize!
Follow Tasha on Twitter @DotDashTash.