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#WriteCBC tip and task from Vaseem Khan

BY Katie Smart
7th Oct 2021

Welcome to our October 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 award-winning crime novelist Vaseem Khan. Vaseem is the author of two acclaimed crime series set in India: the popular Baby Ganesh Detective Agency series and the historical crime Malabar House series. He is also the tutor of our brand-new six-week online course Writing Crime Fiction.

Vaseem’s writing tip:

Setting is more than the location where your novel takes place – it’s a vital ingredient to the story, rather than just a backdrop. Your setting provides escapism – taking readers on a journey to a place they may not be familiar with.

The setting for your story can do much more than simply establish the time and place that the narrative is happening in. When you get your setting right, you’ll be able to fully transport your reader into the world of your story.

A great setting will enrich the narrative and heighten key plot points and themes. Take Vaseem’s historical crime novel Midnight at Malabar House, for example. The story follows India’s first female police detective as she investigates the murder of an English diplomat. The setting is Bombay in 1949. This time and place greatly impacts the themes and action of the novel, which as a result is layered with the political tensions of post-partition India and the institutional misogyny prevalent at the time, particularly in the police force – a very male-dominated field.

Settings are a crucial tool for the writer, because part of the magic of writing is having the ability to take the reader to any place, at any moment in time.

Vaseem’s writing task:

Use this image prompt to write a mini-scene that shows us a character during a crucial and/or suspenseful moment of a journey. Remember, the setting should be more than a backdrop and it should add a layer of intrigue to your story.

This image shows a wide road going straight forward. It is lined by tall pine trees on both sides. There is a foot path and lake behind the trees on the right-hand side of the road.

We’d love you to write us a tweet-length scene inspired by this image prompt. Make sure you transport us into the world of the image. This setting should enrich the action – and don’t forget that we want you to show us a character at a vital moment of their journey. It's up to you to make this setting your own: think about where the road and/or path is leading and whether – in your story – the empty road through the trees is providing peace and tranquillity, or adding to an eerie and unsettling atmosphere.

Here are some questions to consider:

1. When is the story taking place?

2. Where is your character trying to go?

3. Why are they on a journey?

4. How far along are they on the journey?

5. Are they alone?

6. What is your character feeling?

7. How does the setting impact their actions and feelings?

Please do share your mini-scenes by tweeting us (@cbcreative) – we can’t wait to be transported into the world of your story.


This month’s winner is… Liz McClenan @LizMcClenan!

This is it. The place in the photo she’d found in the shoebox. Years spent searching for this exact spot, trees lined up like sentinels beside a long, straight road. She is sure of it now. The answer is here, waiting to be found

We loved the way that Liz interpreted this task, with the image being the final destination of one journey, and at the same time we know that the character is also embarking on a new journey, to find the answer to another long awaited question... What is the significance of this location? What secrets are the sentinel trees hiding?

Congratulations! Liz has won a free place on the six-week creative-writing course of her choice.

Well done to our runners-up!

@EliciaSamuels6 and @ikemoto_m both win a £50 discount to be used on the six-week creative writing course of their choice.

Please email cbccourses@curtisbrown.co.uk to claim your prize!