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01 April 2021

#WriteCBC tip and task from Anna Bailey

by Katie Smart Events, Writing Tips

Welcome to our April edition of #WriteCBC. I hope you’re looking forward to the long, sunny (fingers crossed) Easter holiday weekend. But first get ready to be inspired by our latest writing challenge! If you haven’t taken part in a #WriteCBC competition before, we’re delighted to have you join 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.

Our special guest this month is the brilliant Anna Bailey, who was a student on our six-month online Writing Your Novel course in 2019. Her debut novel Tall Bones is out today from Doubleday UK! Tall Bones is a page-turning thriller with small-town intrigue. The novel has already received great reviews and it has been selected by Goldsboro Books as their April Book of the Month, by Stylist as a best fiction book of 2021 and as a Grazia Book Club pick.

Anna’s writing tip:

I keep a folder of pictures related to whatever I’m writing about so I can re-inspire myself when I get blocked. It could be somebody’s expression or the way the light falls in an image, and suddenly you have a jumping off point for writing again.

Image folders and mood boards can help inspire setting, location and atmosphere. This is the perfect tip to come from Anna, who writes so vividly about the small-town Colorado setting in Tall Bones. A setting that perfectly feeds into the paranoia and claustrophobia of the thriller narrative.

This is definitely advice that you can apply to any writing project. Images are a great way to ground yourself back into the location of your story, particularly if you are writing about a place that’s far away or from a bygone period in history. You can also use real locations to inspire fictional ones. Much of Tolkien’s Middle-earth is famously based on the English countryside and Rivendell resembles Lauterbrunnen Valley, a place he visited in Switzerland.

When creating mood boards, use your own personal photos from locations that inspire you. Or if that’s not possible, do some research and travel through the wonders of the internet. Print photographs out and pin them on your wall so that you can see them while you’re writing. Or keep them saved in a folder on your desktop.

A big part of the magic of writing is having the ability to transport yourself and the reader to any place and any moment in time – and an image can provide a little nudge to help you get there.

Anna’s writing task:

Write a mini-scene inspired by this image. Take the time to find one or two tiny details that will bring the setting to life, and give us a strong sense of place and atmosphere. Make us feel that we’re right there inside your story.

We’d love you to write us a little tweet-length scene that kicks off from Anna’s image prompt. Use your imagination to take us into the world of the image, and make it your own. It’s important to home in on a few concrete details from the image, and make sure you imagine character(s) into this scene. In other words, we don’t want to see long paragraphs describing everything you can see in the image. Use the setting to inspire atmosphere and action. There’s more than one place to zoom in on here – so think about where you want your action to take place. The scene could be on the path, up the mountain, in the building, etc.

Think about the mood the image evokes. We want to know how the setting impacts the way your characters are feeling as well as what they are doing. You should also think about what type of story we are entering. Maybe you’ll take us to a thriller with no escape from this remote place, or it could be a Gothic horror set against the backdrop of those misty mountains, or maybe you’ll whisk us off on an intimate romantic getaway.

We’re looking for atmosphere, and we want to be transported into the scene!

Whatever story you decide to tell us, have fun taking the reader into your world. We can’t wait to read your tweets!

This month’s winner is… Stacey Busuttil @Gobbleknoll_:

We’d listened as the blackened fat hurled itself onto the cottage walls; tiny sparks leapt from the meat to the stone with a hiss. Our father’s worn boots still hung on the brazier like a hunk of dark moss, smoking slightly. It was my turn to do the drowning at the creek today.

Stacey’s details really pull the reader into this scene. We can hear and smell the ‘blackened fat’. The father’s boots compared to ‘dark moss’ hint to the wilderness of the outside world. There is a dark intrigue to this scene that makes us want to read on: Where is the father now? What type of meat is cooking? What is ‘the drowning’?

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

Well done to our runners-up! 

@electra_rhodes, @BillinAlice and @cshughesbooks each win a £50 discount to be used on the six-week creative writing course of their choice. 

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