03 October 2019

#WriteCBC: Writing tip and task from Sophie Lambert

Literary agent Sophie Lambert
by Anna Davis Events, Writing Tips

It’s that time of the month again – here we are for October’s edition of #WriteCBC – and we’re thrilled to welcome the very fabulous Sophie Lambert of C&W – literary agent of many a marvellous author, including Costa-winning Nathan Filer, Booker-longlisted Guy Gunaratne, bestselling CBC alumna Jenny Quintana – and now former CBC student Nikki Smith – whose debut, All in Her Head was recently sold to Orion. If you haven’t joined in #WriteCBC before, check out this blog with information about how to play – it’s lots of fun and you might just win a free place on one of our six-week online writing courses.

And so, to business!

Sophie’s writing tip:

To make your story dramatic and intriguing, think hard about your choice of narrative perspective. Whose voice and viewpoint will be the most compelling? Remember, an unusual or unlikely narrator can bring that extra special something to a novel.

Often, when we start writing a novel or a story, we are absolutely sure of whose story it is and of the perspective from which to tell it. But sometimes it’s not immediately clear which narrative voice might give it that extra zing. Take time to think that through. For example, if you’re writing about a husband and wife breaking up, do you want to view the situation through the eyes of one of the couple breaking up, in order to fully inhabit their world? Do you instead choose to switch between the male and female viewpoints to make your reader keep changing their mind about who to side with? Or perhaps you’d like to see the story through the eyes of their nine-year-old daughter? The child may not fully grasp what is going on but the reader will. This kind of ‘naive narration’ – in which the reader understands more than the storyteller – can bring extra tension to a story and make it very compelling. It can also render the child narrator as particularly vulnerable, making the reader root for them even more strongly. Successful examples of this kind of narration would include Room by Emma Donoghue and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon.

But naive narrators are not the only intriguing ones: In Margaret Atwood’s new novel, The Testaments, part of the story is told by Aunt Lydia. We know her as cruel and merciless from The Handmaid’s Tale, and yet here we come to know her as a self-aware, charismatic survivor. Questions about her true nature and whether she’s ultimately good or evil make her a particularly fascinating storyteller … Other narrators, such as alcoholic Rachel in Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train – or Christine, with her unusual memory impairment in S J Watson’s Before I Go To Sleep are interesting because their respective conditions mean that they’re not just unreliable – they’re unintentionally unreliable. And for some even more unlikely narrators, check out Richard Adam’s rabbits in Watership Down, the already-dead storyteller of Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones – and Marcus Zusak’s The Book Thief, where the story is brought to us by the Grim Reaper himself.

Sophie’s Writing Task:

Your title is The Fight – what will your story be? Can you find an unusual or unlikely narrator for your mini-scene whose voice really brings it to life? Don’t go for the obvious – give us a surprising perspective that leaves us wanting more.

So Sophie has set you a title – The Fight  and she’s asking you to do several things:

  1. Figure out an incident or event that the title is referring to. Who’s involved? What’s the when and the where? What is the fight actually about and what will happen as a result of it? In other words, come up with a story to go with that title.
  2. Now think about who is going to tell the story. Will it be a character who is directly involved in this fight? Will it be a witness? And remember, for this task  we’d like you to come up with a narrator who is in some way unlikely or unusual …
  3. You might like to think about the role of your narrator in whatever has caused this fight – are they an innocent party who has merely stumbled across it by chance? Are they directly responsible for it? Will they be hugely affected by its outcome?
  4. Write your tweet-length mini-scene from a truly striking narrative perspective. Let’s see if you can really make it zing!

And for illustrators:

If you’d like to respond visually rather than in words, we’d love you to give us an illustration to go with the title The Fight. We’d like to see something quirky and different …

This month’s #WriteCBC saw the biggest number of entrants we’ve ever had, so choosing a winner was extremely difficult. But, we’re please to annouce that our winner is …

Ruth Ford @RuthFordWrites – congratulations Ruth!

Its black eyes watched the men eagerly. Their shiny sticks, as sharp as an owl’s talons, tore into each other’s flesh. It was too dangerous to approach while they fought.

It called to its nestmates then took to black wings  the food would wait until nightfall.

Ruth has really embraced the task of telling the story of a fight from an unusual perspective. Her gothic take on the task invites us into the mind of a bird of prey, eerily detached from the gruesome violence of the sword fight of men below. Truly gripping. 

Well done Ruth. You’ve won a free place on the 6-week online creative edusson paper writing course of your choice!

Congrats to this month’s #WriteCBC runners-up @Laure0901 and @Juliemarie02. You both win a £50 course discount to be used on the 6-week course of your choice.

Also, we’d like to award illustrator @AngelTate67 a a £50 discount to be used on one of our children’s picture book courses for her humorous drawing of The Fight:

WriteCBC-AngelTate

For more writing advice and prompts take a look at our six-week online courses designed to help writers at different stages of their novel-writing journey, enrol today: Starting to Write Your NovelWrite to the End of Your Novel and Edit & Pitch Your Novel.

And for illustrators and children’s writers we have:  Illustrating a Children’s Picture Book course taught by Sarah McIntyre, Writing a Children’s Picture Book course taught by David O’Connell, and for those who want to do both there’s our Writing and Illustrating a Children’s Picture Book course taught by Sarah and David.

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