Wednesday, 28 August 2013

A reality check

A big theme of my teaching of writers is ensuring that the reader feels that they are there in the middle of the story.

How do you do that? Well, write for the reader - can they see what they need to see of the place and the characters etc? Did you give them enough information? You know it’s raining but did you do enough to make them feel the rain on their face?

Also, know your characters. For a story to be believable, the characters have to be believable and realistic. Cardboard cut-outs do not tell good stories!

John Dean

Time running out

Just over four days to go in the August Global Short Story Competition. You can enter at

Well done, Chris

Continuing our recent theme of winners of the Global Short Story Competition going on to make it print, check out the heart-warming novel Just a bit of Banter by Chris Westlake. The book published by Mirador Publishing and written by Chris, who was successful in the competition in 2010, and says the competition helped him develop as a writer, can be found at

Friday, 9 August 2013

Winner goes into print

Delighted to see one of our previous Global Short Story Competition winners doing well. Check out Jem Vanston’s new book at

Office closure

The Inscribe office will be closed between Aug 10-25. We will answer any queries when we reopen.

Talking of which

Good dialogue can make a story, bad dialogue can wreck it. Good dialogue follows the rules of conversation. Heres some thoughts about what to bear in mind when your characters speak:.

* A lot of the time, we do not speak in correct sentences/we often use short sharp phrases and interrupt each other

* We assume the listener knows a lot about us

* Dialogue can impart information but we try to make that information interesting, lacing it with humour, personal interpretation etc

* We can tell a lot about a person in a short snap of conversation - a few words of dialogue can say a lot about a character.

For example
Good morning, Bill, I said as I walked past.
Whats good about it? he grunted and ambled down the street

Suddenly with one two line exchange we can start to build up a picture of Bill

He is grumpy

He is rude

He is curt

He is pessimistic

He rejected friendship

Or is he? That could be the challenge of the storywriter. We think we know someone but we do not. In fact, he is depressed for a reason, he is ill, something horrible has happened to him that we do not know about

* Dialogue needs to be crisp

We do not, by and large, talk in long sentences.

We dont say Good morning on this crisp and cold December morning, Bill unless doing it for effect

We do say: Good morning, Bill. Or put some quirky take on it Hows it hanging, Bill?

* Needs to be in character

* Must take the story on unless we are trying as writers to make small talk

* But do not pack with extraneous information, ie. Good Tuesday morning, William, although everyone calls you Bill, my neighbour of ten years in Acacia Avenue, in Darlington, are you your normal glum self, to which we - that is my wife and I - have grown accustomed over the years since your wife left you for a younger man and filed for divorce or has the darkness which seems to routinely enveigle you over the last few days lifted at last, may I ask?

* If you need to slot in information, find a way of doing it subtly like “Saw Bill this morning. His usual gloomy self. Not sure hell ever recover his spirits. The divorce really has knocked him backwards.

John Dean

Monday, 5 August 2013

How to create compelling characters

Characters can make or break a story. You can create the finest landscapes, the greatest stories, the most remarkable writing but you cannot make your stories live unless you have characters. They are your vehicle, it is only through their eyes that we reach where you want us to reach.

So how we get it right? Here’s some thoughts.

Maybe base them on people you know but beware of the law. Don’t lift your local vicar wholesale and turn him/her into a cold-blooded killer! Make your characters composites of several people.

Describe their physical characteristics You can do it one bit or slot descriptions in as you go.

Visualise the person, think of small things which make them stand out, make them live.

Describe their clothing but move beyond simple facts, try to capture their demeanour.

How do they speak? Brusque, garrulous?
Describe their views, their emotions, they type of character.

Maybe come up with something that makes them different. A hobby, an odd phrase that they keep using.

Do not pack the info in all at once, reveal the character as they progress.

If this is a major character get to know them particularly well. How do they react to things? Make sure they are strong enough to carry the story on their shoulders. And we must care about them - not necessarily like but care.

Take care with minor characters as well as major, they’re important, no cardboard cut-outs.

Above all, ask yourself are your characters REAL?

Honours go to Malaysia and England in writing competition

 Judge Fiona Cooper has selected her winners for the June Global Short Story Competition.

The £100 first place prize goes to a writer from Kota Kinabalu in Malaysia.. Fiona says of Next Time Do It Properly by Margaret Renshaw: “The subject matter of this story touches on some sadly familiar themes, but weaves them together in a fresh way, with subtle twists that are quite intriguing. Part of its success is that there is no one answer offered, and that somehow the writer has kept the ending open yet still manages to resent a realistic and satisfying result. This could well lead to some linked stories - the characterisation is deft and believable“.

The £25 highly commended prize goes to Mandy Huggins, of Cleckheaton in England, of whose story The View Through Rain Fiona says: “Lovely use of language here, and the sadness of shattered love shines in every line. The writer has created a cinematic episode here and totally transports the reader into the shifting realities of relationships. The near escape is excellently done and again, this could lead to a much longer story, while being very satisfying just the way it is.”

The writers on the shortlist are:

Georgia Minoa, Cyprus

Stephanie Constans, Lille, France

Jacqueline Winn, Possum Brush, NSW, Australia

Jane Branson, Horsham, West Sussex, England

Winning stories will be posted on Well done to our successful writers and there’s plenty of time to enter this month’s competition via the same web address.





Six word competition winner named

The team at Inscribe have now judged our free six-word competition. The set-up was ‘It’s the year 2013, add 2, 1 and 3 and you get six, six is the number of words in supposedly the finest flash fiction story ever written For Sale. Baby Shoes. Never Worn (attributed to Hemingway but probably not by him). The challenge is a short story in six words.”

The standard was high but in the end the £50 prize goes to Mark Shadwell for

‘Facebook - daughter found. Friend request rejected’ (because it made us cry)

We also particularly liked

‘Sale. Coffin . Due to time waster’ by Amanda Huggins (because it made us smile)

‘She waits patiently at his grave’ by Erin Gaven (because it made us wonder)
and two from Anita Goodfellow. ‘Congratulations, Mrs Kray. Healthy twin boys’ (because it made us laugh even though we should not have) and ‘Doesn’t Hannah look like her uncle’ (because it‘s naughty!).
* The competition was run on our Facebook page (where are our free poetry one is now running) at

Friday, 2 August 2013

Winner's day

Monday (August 5) is a big day as we will announce the winners of our June Global Short Story Competition (run at and our free six-word flash fiction competition run on our Facebook page at

Thursday, 1 August 2013

All the world's a stage

Stuck for an idea for a story? Well here’s a useful way to get yourself going. Go somewhere quiet, a park on a rainy morning, a riverbank, a street at night, wherever. Clear your mind, let it roam wherever it wishes. Think of the place as a stage and see who emerges from the wings.

Jot down fragments, thoughts, images, words. Why? Because thoughts that flash into your mind at any given time tend to disappear as quickly as they formed.

Focus on your person. Jot down half a dozen details about them. Just fragments. Could be way they move, dress, speak, think or the way they make you feel.

Doesn’t always work but it does more often that not and it’s amazing where the exercise will take you.

John Dean

New short story competition opens for entries

The August Global Short Story Competition has opened for entries from authors across the planet.

Launched five years ago, the competition runs every month with a £100 first prize and a £25 prize for highly commended writers.

Currently approaching £9,800 in prize money handed out, the competition has had

entries from more than 50 countries.
Each month’s competition is judged by Fiona Cooper, an author in North-East England, where the competition’s organisers Inscribe Media are also based. The competition can be entered at

July’s competition has gone for judging and June’s results will be announced on Monday August 5.
* Inscribe Media is also running a free poetry competition at or the Facebook page can be accessed through