Monday, 18 April 2016

Still places on creative writing courses

Creative writing tutor John Dean is taking bookings for the Summer 2016 term of his popular courses at the Friends’ Meeting House in Skinnergate, Darlington, and there are still some places left, particularly on the Tuesday nights..
The adult learning courses deal with all aspects of creative writing, focusing primarily on prose, including short stories, novels and other forms of writing as well as occasional forays into the world of stage, theatre and radio.

Each course is different and deals with everything from characterisation to plotting, creating strong sense of place to how to edit. Each session runs between 7 and 9pm.

The courses start:
Summer term 2016 (8 weeks)


First session April 26

Half term No class May 31

Final session June 21



First session April 27

Half term No class June 1

Final session June 22

Cost £32 (Concessions 26)

 More information is available from John on 01325 463813 or email

Getting the triangle right

Good story writing depends on many things but can be boiled down to three factors, the triangle.

At the top is the narrative, a strong story, plenty of pace, a tale that enthrals the readers.

At one bottom corner is a sense of place, a strong sense of where the action is taking place.

At the other corner is a sense of being, the creation of characters strong and interesting enough to carry the story.

Get the triangle right and the rest flows from it.
John Dean

A few simple rules

The rules of writing

Here are my golden rules for writing.

* Consider the reader - do not write for yourself, always write for the reader.

* Be disciplined - you may wish to pack lots of information in but does the reader need it?

* You may not have put enough information in - you can imagine where a scene is set but have you given the reader the information they need? You may have drawn a character but can your readers see them?

* Be brutal - if you have overwritten, chop out the fat.


Rules of the short story

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

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Writing film scripts

I have been working with a writing group who are working with some film-makers which got me thinking. So how do you write a script? Here’s some thoughts:

* Read plenty of scripts and see how the experts do it - get used to how the script looks on the page. Then watch the film itself and see how the script translated when filming actually began.
* About half of the content of a screenplay should be dialogue and the other half should be visual.
* Keep camera directions to a minimum. Let the filmmakers decide how to film the script.
* Action is important you need to keep the story moving.
* Keep the story well-paced - generally, one screenplay page is one minute of screen time.
* Develop true-to-life characters. Know their history and why they react to events the way they do. And keep it consistent: if they are aged fifty in one scene make sure you do not have them celebrating their sixtieth birthday in the next unless it is part of the plot.
* If it helps, focus on a few key details that tell us what kind of person your character is. Maybe the person cannot wear a tie smartly, maybe their clothes are always grubby, maybe they never look anyone in the face. And when you write your scene, ask yourself if your character would really react like that?
* Before you write your script, write a list of scenes you want to include and what happens in each one. That way you can make sure your story develops in the right way.
* And finally, keep the balance right: you don’t want the first half of the film to be all dialogue, followed by 45 minutes of car chases.

John Dean


Now there's an idea

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

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Writers in conversation at Darlington Arts Festival

Darlington Arts Festival will see a new series of events this year in the form of three In Conversation With… events featuring published authors, at Crown Street Library

Monday May 9

In Conversation with… Poets

Crown Street Library, Darlington 7pm

Tickets: £5 per person (tickets can be purchased on the door or booked in advance by contacting Tracey Iceton: 07773 797817

Join three published poets, Natalie Scott, Becky Cherriman and Mel McEvoy, for an evening of poetry readings and conversation about the art of poetry and the ‘business’ of being a poet. Chaired by Tracey Iceton.

Becky Cherriman is a writer, workshop leader and performer based in Leeds. Published by Mslexia, New Walk, Envoi,Mother’s Milk, Well Versed and Bloodaxe, she was resident poet for Morley Literature Festival in 2013.

Natalie Scott is a published poet and qualified teacher with a PhD in Creative Writing. She is a member of Lapidus and is currently training with the International Federation for Biblio/ Poetry Therapy to become a Certified Applied Poetry Facilitator. Her first full-collection Berth – Voices of the Titanic (Bradshaw Books, 2012) received runner-up for the Cork Literary Review Manuscript Competition 2011.

Mel cEvoy is a published poet.  His first collection, An Emptied Space, was published by Mudfog in 2012.  His poems sharply reflect the rural Ireland of the 1950s shown through the heartbreaking lives of his parents.

Monday May 16

In Conversation with… Historical Fiction writers

Crown Street Library, Darlington 7pm

Tickets: £5 per person (tickets can be purchased on the door or booked in advance by contacting Tracey Iceton: 07773 797817

Join three published historical novelists, Michael Cawood Green, Andrew Crumey and Tracey Iceton, for an evening of readings from their historical fiction and conversation about the craft of researching and writing historical novels. Chaired by John Dean

Michael Green is Professor in Creative Writing at Northumbria University and a distinguished Fellow of the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. His research interests include the uses of history in fiction, which is the subject of his influential monograph Novel Histories: Past, Present, and Future in South African Fiction.

Andrew Crumey is former literary editor of Scotland on Sunday and Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at Northumbria University. His seven novels have been published internationally to critical acclaim. He has been shortlisted for the James Tait Black and other awards, longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, and was winner of the Saltire Prize for his debut novel, Music, In A Foreign Language, set in an alternative communist Britain. His latest novel, The Secret Knowledge, tells of a rediscoved musical masterpiece with a sinister legacy.

Tracey Iceton is an author and creative writing tutor from Teesside.  Now studying for her creative writing PhD at Northumbria University, she is a qualified English teacher experienced in delivering creating writing courses and workshops and has an MA in Creative Writing from Newcastle University.  Green Dawn at St Enda’s, her debut historical novel and part one of her Irish Trilogy, will be published by Cinnamon Press in 2016 with parts two and three following in 2017 and 2019 with plans for a fourth novel, Rock God Complex: The Mickey Hunter Story, to appear in 2020. 

Monday May 23

In Conversation with …..crime and thriller writers Mike Beck, Roger Barnes, Bud Craig and Pam Plumb, the final evening in the festival’s In Conversation With published writers series.

Crown Street Library 7pm

Chaired by crime writer John Dean, the authors will chat about their work.

Ticket £5 on the door.

Mike Beck wrote the crime novel Harry’s Torment, Roger Barnes has written three thrillers, the most recent of which is Snow Birds, Bud Craig is the author of three crime novels, the most recent being Falling Foul and Pam Plumb, pictured, wrote Akos Novus.

Book launches at the Festival

Darlington Arts Festival will this year continue its tradition of staging book launches.

Thursday May 12

Voodoo Café, Skinnergate 7pm

Darlington-based Inkerman Writers launch their new book Picture This with an evening of prose and poetry. £2 on the door.


Thursday, 26 May  

Vane Women 25th Anniversary Book Launch

Crown Street Gallery, Darlington, DL1 1ND  6.30-8.00 pm

Vane Women and guest poets will read from the latest Vane Women Press

anthology of photographs, poetry and prose. NORTHbound celebrates the 25th anniversary of Vane Women, founded in 1991 to support the development and recognition of women writers.  The writing, publishing and performing collective has come a long way from its beginnings in the women’s writing class that ran at the late lamented Darlington Arts Centre in Vane Terrace.

This anthology contains Pat Maycroft’s wonderfully evocative images with responses by Vane Women and guest writers who live in the North East and who have been associated with Vane Women as their published authors or tutors of masterclasses. What binds them all is a strong sense of place; of the North, of a landscape both beautiful and harsh.

This is an edgeland that has weathered invasion by Vikings, the rise and fall of heavy industry, poverty,  erosion and landslip. It has bred stubborn strength and a tough pride in its people, whether they were born here or have chosen to live here.

NORTHbound represents the hard graft of image-making, writing and publishing and honours the camaraderie of writers who live in this region.

Admission Free