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06 May 2021

#WriteCBC tip and task from Anna Davis

Anna Davis, Curtis Brown Creative's Managing Director
by Anna Davis Events, Writing Tips

Welcome one and all to our Double Birthday #WriteCBC! Yep, Curtis Brown Creative is 10 years old today – and actually, #WriteCBC is 3 years old. The team will be convening in my garden later on to eat pizza and cake and raise a glass – and I have to say, it will be so nice to see them. The dreaded ‘C’ word means we haven’t seen each other at all this year – and only a very few times since March 2020. I’m not entirely sure they actually exist any more outside of little boxes on screens – so it could be a shock to the system when they actually turn up on my doorstep!

But anyway, back to the matter in hand – the Birthday #WriteCBC! 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.

So yes – this month it’s my turn to set a writing tip and a writing task …

My writing tip:

When you’re writing, remember to think about your reader’s emotional engagement. What do you want them to FEEL about your story and characters? Ask trusted readers to feed back on this so you’ll know if your intentions have made it onto the page.

Many times, over this last decade, I’ve seen our students look completely startled and dismayed to hear from their group that their supposedly lovely protagonist comes across as thoroughly unpleasant. On other occasions, when reading application material to our selective courses, I’ve found myself becoming interested in the opening to a novel – but then, on looking at the one-page synopsis accompanying the material, I’ve struggled to imagine that it belongs to the material I’ve just read…

When you’re working on a writing project, make sure your intentions – in all their complexity – make it through to the page. The reader can only engage with what you’ve actually written – not with the whole fictional world you have in your head.

If you need us to root for your character – who is basically a nice person but having a bad time – make sure you have them doing, saying and thinking things which show us their positive qualities (and you can use the reactions of other characters, also, to suggest that they are not behaving in their normal way). Otherwise they could easily come across as a moaner or snide or just generally annoying.

If you know where your story is headed – and, for example, it’s a psychological thriller – your opening needs to set the tone and atmosphere to put the reader in the right emotional place for what’s to follow. It’s fine to show us a situation that’s currently bright and cheerful (and which is later going to fall apart) – but if that’s the case, you might want to drop subtle hints that all is not as it seems. You can use foreshadowing – a classic tool of the psych thriller writer – or make that lovely opening scenario just a little too good to be true – or perhaps use a prologue (a favourite device of our course leader Erin Kelly) to plunge the reader into darkness before you return to establish the normality that’s going to come under threat. This is just an example, of course – but the same is true for other genres and story shapes. Give us an opening that works as a gateway to your main story and puts us in the right emotional headspace for what will follow.

My writing task:

Your title is ‘The Birthday Present’. Write a mini-scene that’s intriguing or moving or funny. Make me smile or laugh or go ‘Ooh!’. (No horror please, as it’s our 10 year anniversary and that wouldn’t be a nice present!). Have fun with it – and go!

It’s quite a challenge to create a fully fleshed scene, in such a very few words, that not only tells or opens a story, but also prompts me to react in a very specific way. But that is indeed your challenge! Put a tear in my eye, or give me something funny that’ll make me choke on my tea (it’s really hard to make readers laugh out loud – but kudos to you if you’re able to do it), or make me feel the sheer wonder of what you’re showing me. As mentioned, I’m steering you away from the very dark this time (sorry @virtwriting) because it’s our birthday – no heads or limbs in boxes today, please!

So now it’s time to wow me, and indeed each other. And I hope you have a lovely day – because if you’ve been taking part in #WriteCBC regularly, then it’s your birthday too. We can’t wait to read your tweets!

This month’s winner is… Emily Randall @millyrandall85:

The block of cheese is wrapped in paper of her own design. Sellotape’s hard but she’s tried; twisted clumps are stuck together and dotted with fluff. My heart bursts ‘cause three years ago a Her seemed impossible, but now she’s here, all banana scent and muddy fingers.

You can feel the love and affection radiate out of this mini-scene. Emily has perfectly captured the innocence and joy of childhood and the unconditional bond between parent and child. The added twist of the past fertility difficulties is subtle and makes for an even more heart-warming read.

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

Well done to our runners-up! 

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

Continue the birthday party by exploring our new #10YearsofCBC timeline and discovering some of our highlights from the past decade.

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