Monday, 18 May 2015

The Inkerman Writers at the Festival

Monday May 18 at Darlington Arts Festival sees A Night with the Inkerman Writers, of which I am member, at Voodoo Café, Skinnergate 7pm Free
The Darlington-based writers group will read a selection of their prose and poetry.

John Dean

Some thoughts on starting short stories

Here’s some more thoughts on starting short stories.

The first cardinal rule of opening lines is that they should possess most of the individual elements that make up the story. An opening paragraph should have a distinctive voice, a point of view, a rudimentary plot and some hint of characterisation. By the end of the first paragraph, we should also know the setting and conflict, unless there is a particular reason to withhold this information.

You might be tempted to begin your narrative before the action starts, such as when a character wakes up to what will eventually be a dramatic day. Far better to begin at the first moment of something interesting happening, though, which is more likely to grab the reader‘s interest.

If you feel compelled to begin a story with dialogue, keep in mind that you’re thrusting your readers directly into a story in which it’s easy to lose them early on. So keep the dialogue to a minimum. One  way around this is to begin with a single line of dialogue and then to offer some context before proceeding with the rest of the conversation.

Sometimes a story evolves so significantly during the writing that an opening line, no matter how brilliant, no longer applies to the story that follows. The only way to know this is to reconsider the opening sentence once the final draft is complete. Often a new opening is called for.

John Dean

A lfe of crime at festival

I hope this forthcoming Darlington Arts Festival event interests.
Saturday May 23  2.30--4pm -A Life of Crime
Darlington Art Gallery, Crown Street Library, Darlington
Darlington-based crime writers Bud Craig, whose recently published second novel is Dead Certainty, Mike Beck, author of Harrys Torment, and John Dean, whose latest novel is A Breach of Trust, talk about their life of crime, including explaining why they love the genre and readings from their work. Free event

John Dean

Friday, 15 May 2015

Writing flash fiction

So how do you write flash fiction? Here's some thoughts
1.      You only have room for one main character

2.      You only have room for one scene. There’s not enough room to tell the character’s life story. One setting, one moment

3.      You only have room for a single plot. No subplots.

4.      You only have room for a single, simple theme.

5.      Get to the main conflict of the scene in the first sentence
6.      Skip as much of the backstory as you can
7.      Save the twist until the end

8.  Edit! Cross out any word that isn’t absolutely needed
John Dean

The rules of short story writing

Here's my thoughts on the rules of short story writing
1 . The best stories are the ones that follow a fairly narrow subject line: too many plotlines and you end up with a novel!

2. An effective short story often covers a very short time span. It may be one single episode that proves pivotal in the life of the character.

3. Don't have too many characters. Each new character will bring a new dimension to the story, and too many diverse dimensions dilute the theme. Have only enough characters to effectively tell the story.

4. Make every word count. There is no room for unnecessary expansion in a short story. If each word is not working towards putting across the story, delete it.

John Dean

In the beginning

I’ve been doing a lot of teaching on the idea of ideas lately and came across these excellent quotes.

·         People always want to know: Where do I get my ideas? They're everywhere. I'm inspired by people and things around me. (Gwendolyn Brooks, American poet)

·         My standard answer is "I don't know where they come from, but I know where they come to, they come to my desk." If I'm not there, they go away again, so you've got to sit and think. (Philip Pullman, English writer)

·         Ideas come to a writer, a writer does not search for them. "Ideas come to me like birds that I see in the corner of my eye," I say to journalists, "and I may try, or may not, to get a closer fix on those birds." (Patricia Highsmith, American crime writer)

·         It's very blurred, it's not clear. The plan is something which gradually evolves. Usually, I'll just start with one particular idea or certain image or even just a mood and gradually it'll kind of grow when other things attach themselves to it. (Jane Rogers, British novelist, editor, and teacher)

·         Anything can set things going--an encounter, a recollection. I think writers are great rememberers. (Gore Vidal, American novelist, playwright, essayist)

·         You can write about anything, and if you write well enough, even the reader with no intrinsic interest in the subject will become involved.
(Tracy Kidder, literary journalist)

·         "From you," I say. The crowd laughs. I look at the woman asking the question; she seems innocent enough. I continue. "I get them from looking at the world we live in, from reading the paper, watching the news. It seems as though what I write is often extreme, but in truth it happens every day."
(A. M. Homes, American novelist and short story writer)

·         My usual, perfectly honest reply is, "I don't get them; they get me."
(Robertson Davies, Canadian novelist, playwright, and critic

John Dean

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Online crime fiction course is launched

Crime novelist and creative writing tutor John Dean has launched an online Crime Fiction Course.

John, author of 12 novels published by Robert Hale, and the creator of DCI John Blizzard and DCI Jack Harris, also runs Inscribe Media Ltd, which is based in Darlington in North East England, which will be offering the course.

The online course, which runs in eight parts and can begin at a time and date to suit the student, will help writers to improve their technique and improve their chances of being successful, either in competitions or admissions to publishers.

When they enroll, students will be offered ongoing one-to-one feedback on their work, be it short stories or novels.

John, whose latest novel A Breach of Trust came out in January 2015, and who is a member of the UK-based Crime Writers’ Association, said: “Writing can be a lonely pastime and my aim is to help aspiring writers to improve their technique and improve their chances of being successful in a very competitive market.

“Crime fiction remains hugely popular and, hopefully, I can help aspiring writers to develop their ideas, and because it is online it does not matter where they live. In recent years, I have worked with writers from everywhere from Croatia to Australia and New Zealand.”

There is no official certificate of qualification at the end of the course, which will be led by John and features:

• Personal attention

• Exercises and practical work

• Discussions by email

• Because the tutor is on line, you can do the work at time and pace that suits you

Themes to be included are:
An examination of where ideas come from - what triggers ideas in writers?

Once you have the idea, how do you develop it? The course will look at the art of  plotting

How can you use places and landscapes to aid your story telling?

How do you pick characters to do the job? What are their functions in storytelling? This will include a look at creating villains

How conflict can be used to develop stories that assume a life of their own

That all important start to your story - how do you grab the reader right from the off?

Writing with pace - how do you produce a narrative that keeps your reader turning the page?

Pulling it all together - how to produce the finished piece of work.

Editing - how to make those changes that make all the difference.

Pitching to publishers and agents

The course costs £75. For further details you can contact John at

Inscribe Media’s website, which also has details of other courses and the company’s mentoring programme, can be found at

LIterature at the festival

In addition to blogs on specific Darlington Arts Festival events this month, the Darlington for  Culture website has some specially themed ones. Why not check out the following?


Supporting writers

A reminder that, in addition to the various free things we do, one of the paid-for services we offer is one supporting writers.

Why should you hire a professional writing mentor, though? Isn’t it enough to attend a class/workshop or a writing group? Or ask a friend or relative to comment?

Well, it depends what you want and need and bespoke mentoring from Inscribe Media can help some writers, providing the experience and expertise to -

• understand your work

• nurture you and your writing

• let you retain control of your ideas and your writing

* provide expert, specific advice about what is working and what isn’t.

We focus on major issues, such as how your story hangs together, what your characters are doing or could be doing, what is hurting your story’s momentum, what story elements are not pulling their weight.

We identify the differences between good and great and point out your writing strengths, so you become confident about what not to change.

We also give suggestions and help you establish good processes and writing goals and suggest markets for your work.

If long-term mentoring does not appeal, we run short writing courses as well.

You can find out more at
You can also access our free downloadable writing guide here at and find loads of free tips on our blog here

John Dean

A matter of conflict

Why is conflict important in writing? Because stories need things to happen and that usually comes out of conflict - characters argue, fight, feud etc.
It is through seeing characters in conflict that we see them at their truest, when their guard is down, when they are fighting something.
You can develop a character through conflict: the meek little parlour maid suddenly becomes the towering heroine of the story
Conflict takes the story on: a school is to be closed, two friends fall out, a community is torn apart by an event. All these types of conflict are a rich hunting ground for the writer.
Conflict can evoke a strong reaction in a reader
Conflict makes for good drama - and if that is happening then writing is easier.
It also gives you a structure for your story, a story to tell
John Dean