Sep 19, 2011

Telling A Story Masterclass

Me totally invading Brian Falkner's personal space

I'm still recovering from inspiration overload I received at the recent CYA Conference. The day kicked off for me with a writing masterclass hosted by author Brian Falkner.

This master class ran for a few hours and was absolutely jammed packed with tips and advice on writing. I have about ten notebook pages filled. Here's just a tiny taste of what we enjoyed:

If you turn up every day at the same time, ready to work, and start writing without inspiration - then eventually your muse will turn up too.

As an exercise we were asked to share one observation about the person sitting next to us. Then we were asked to share one thing about ourselves. What was noticed was that we tend to make superficial descriptions of others, like the colour of their hair, or if they wore glasses, and we offer more personality descriptions of ourselves. So don't just decide your character is 5ft tall, short brown hair and freckles, instead tell us that they pick up any shiny objects they find on the ground, just like a magpie. This was summed up as shallow vs deep characterisation.

Conflict must come from the story and not be placed simply for more conflict. Obstacles must seem impossible to overcome. When faced with a dilemma, give your character two choices - each with their own dire consequences, or, make them think up a third option. Also, danger must always be immediate, not something coming slowly. Characters are avoiding an oncoming train, not a possible problem that may happen some time next year.

If you have trouble writing a full scene that includes a variety of writing techniques, try the following method:

  1. Start by writing the narration. Explain what happens in this scene, where your character moves and what he does.
  2. Go back through your paragraphs and insert description. Give the reader a sense of place and images for characters.
  3. Now go back through what you have and add dialogue and actions.

We also talked about narration, description, writing tips, point of views, dramatic irony, overlapping suspense lines and much, much more.

Brian Falkner has a great range of novels, and I've chosen to begin by reading Brainjack:

Check out the book trailer!


  1. Fantastic taste of what sounds like three hours of inspiration Charmaine. Wish I could have been in there too. I'm planning on posting about TBs Book Trailors for the benefit of absentees. But I'm still working out how to include a BT on the post! Derr.

  2. LOL thanks Dimity, I'll Facebook the steps I use to insert a YouTube book trailer :)

  3. OoOO...I like the tips on creating your character and the tips on narrating your story/chapter first. Wished I could've went but we in other parts of the world.

    Thank you for sharing.

  4. Thanks Charmaine, more good tips from your forays into the wide world.

    Moody Writing

  5. Great feedback... especially the part on conflict... going to use that:) So jealous about the great conferences you do... so need to find some I can attend:)

  6. Sounds like you've learned some very useful things. Thanks for sharing!

  7. 'If you turn up every day at the same time, ready to work, and start writing without inspiration - then eventually your muse will turn up too.'

    Can't add to what is already complete.

  8. LOVE this post! Every single helpful word of it!! :-)

  9. Good advice! I've never thought of attacking tough scenes in layers before - I'll give it a shot!

  10. I love the point about's so true! I'll definitely work on that one!

  11. I agree that conflict must come from the story and feel organic. If it is there simply for conflict's sake then it is worth nothing. Great post!

  12. These are great tips! How interesting that people describe others by appearance and themselves by personality! And what a great way to attack writing a scene. Thanks!

  13. I love the character idea! very good point! Go beyond the immediate is such a good idea...just think of what people may notice about us, and most of the time we go way beyond the artificial!

  14. You're so generous to share some of the tips you got. Thank you Charmaine.

  15. Interesting way of writing scenes. Might have to give that a go next time I'm stuck for how to start!

  16. sounds like a great masterclass. I love the caption you put with the pic ;) So funny.

  17. Oooh, I'm liking that tip on how to attack scenes you're blocked with! Might find that one very useful...

    Sounds like a great conference!